Film Review

Published on January 19th, 2013


The House I Live In – Film Review

The House I Live In,  an award winning documentary about the United States’ domestic “War On Drugs”, is an honest, in depth and insightful discussion on the topic.  Written, Produced and Directed by Eugene Jarecki, the film also lists as Executive Producers :Joselyn Barnes, Nick Frasier,  Danny Glover, John Legend, Brad Pitt, and Russell Simmons. 

Mr. Jarecki,  the director, is no starnger to adversity. He comes from a family of persecution. On his mother’s side, his entire family had to flee the persecution of Jews by the Russian Bolsheviks while his father’s family escaped The Holocaust during World War II.  Consequently, he was raised with a strong social conscience and an eye towards helping those  less fortunate.  Combine all of this with the fact that his family retained (during the 60’s) an African-American maid, named Nanny Jenner, whose responsibility it was to care him, and you have the driving force behind the beliefs espoused in The House I Live In.

    Eugene Jarecki promotes the idea that The War on Drugs in the United States is no longer a race based effort targeted at blacks, but has become a class war which encompasses everyone including whites.  He argues in the film that “The War on Drugs”  is really directed at the poor, irrespective of race. To make the case, the documenatory is filled with compelling 1st hand accounts and facts. For instance, few know that that there are over 2.3 million people in prisons in the United States.  Most of these prisoners are in prison on drug-related charges.  This is higher than the prison rates in Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia.  Similarly, since 1971, the United States has spent $1 trillion dollars fighting “War On Drugs”, internally and incarcerated 45 million people on drug related charges.

    Speaking to a cross-section of people from  the USA,  Jarecki speaks to his former Nanny, her off-spring and descendants, addicts on the streets, members of an investigative SWAT Unit, Professors from Harvard and Columbia University, Physicians, Prison Inmates, Political Analysts, attorneys, writers, television journalists, judges, prison guards, Drug Pushers and Producers of award winning programs like The Wire which illustrates the degree to which drugs are both class-based and entrenched in the society. 

Just as Mr. Jarecki interviews a number of people from different walks of life to determine why Nanny Jenner’s family and his own family began to walk divergent paths in life as the members of the two families came of age, he also interviews people throughout the United states including Connecticut, Rhode-Island, Vermont, New York, Florida, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.  In Oklahoma, at The Lexington Prison Facility, Eugene Jarecki demonstrates the horrific impact of the class-based War on Drugs throughout the United States. 

Spanning eight Presidential Administrations beginning with Richard M. Nixon on June 17th, 1971  to Barack Obama (2008-present) The House I Live In suggests that drug-sentencing will become more lenient under the current Presidential Administration.  Beautifully edited by Paul Frost and with Music by Robert Miller, on a scale of from one to ten I would rate The House I Live In  ten+ although I would not recommend this documentary for anyone under thirteen  years of age due to its graphic depictions of drug use.


Cleo Brown is the movie reviewer for She lives in Manhattan and has a Master’s Degree in Contemporary African-American History from The University of California at Davis and has done work on a Ph.D. in education at The University of San Francisco. She has published several poetry books and is featured in Who’s Who in Poetry.

Learn more about this film: FilmBuff


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