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EW Movie Review: "The House I Live In"

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"The House I Live In" is a powerful, new documentary about how the war on drugs has impacted the United States of America. Entertainment Weekly contributing critic Owen Gleiberman filed the following review.

"The House I Live In" is a powerful and startling documentary about the war on drugs. At this point, we all know in the back of our minds that sentences for first-time marijuana offenders are probably too harsh. And Steven Soderbergh’s great movie "Traffic" memorably captured how in a country like America, laws against drugs will always be defeated by the simple law of supply and demand.

But "The House I Live In" goes beyond these perceptions to reveal what’s really going on inside an issue that most of us have come to ignore.

The film was directed by Eugene Jarecki, who takes a powerfully despairing view of a crackdown that began in the Nixon era. Working like a superb investigative journalist, Jarecki demonstrates all the ways that the war on drugs has become futile, but also how it is now an unstoppable industry, with privatized prisons run as economic engines.

Jarecki talks to convicts, corrections officers, judges, and in a fantastic interview that runs throughout the movie, David Simon, creator of "The Wire."

"The House I Live In" is really a story of racism, because much of its analysis comes down to how inner-city African-Americans are still targeted and demonized as drug users, as if they were responsible for the scourge of drugs in our society, while suburban drug users are neatly off the radar.

This was reflected in the hysteria over crack cocaine in the 1980s. From the Reagan propaganda, you’d have thought that crack was purely a ghetto phenomenon, when in fact, the majority of crack users were white and middle class.

"The House I Live In" powerfully makes the case that the targeting of minorities, fused with the cruelty of mandatory sentencing, has turned the war on drugs into what David Simon calls “a holocaust in slow motion.”

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