Longtime critics of American drug prohibition may find themselves squirming uncomfortably in their seats after the first half-hour of documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki’s new drug war critique, The House I Live In. Not because they’ll disagree with the arguments, but because the first act of this well-financed snapshot of how the drug war poisons lives (Danny Glover, Brad Pitt, and other notables kicked in cash) is notably devoid of arguments.
Like HBO producer/writer David Simon—who appears frequently as the documentary’s conscience—Jarecki has chosen realistic collage over opinion journalism, hooking viewers with stories that are by turns heartwrenching and humorous. Only after you find yourself rooting for drug dealers and even drug-enforcement authorities does Jarecki start hammering home his political takeaway: that American drug prohibition is best understood as a war on disfavored ethnic minorities. The conclusion may be harsh, but so is the status quo Jarecki is trying to upend. —Matt Welch