“The House I Live In” tells an important story without being obnoxious

Drugs are a hot topic these days in Colorado and on CU’s campus. Following the shutdown of 4/20 and the upcoming vote on Amendment 64, which would legalize marijuana use for adults in Colorado, drugs are an everyday part of life whether you are a user or not.

The documentary “The House I Live In” explores the state of drug control today and follows numerous characters that struggle with the complexities of the modern war on drugs.

Inmate in the film “The House I Live In,” released in 2012. (Courtesy of The House I Live In/Derek Hallquist)

Despite what history books may tell you, Richard Nixon was the man who really started the war on drugs. His approach was very different to those that are in practice today. He primarily chose to help the people who were addicted rather than attack the sellers. Four decades later, the tables have turned in the “war on drugs,” and it is almost universally regarded as a failure.

All of the characters in “The House I Live In” are both intelligent and on the frontlines of the war on drugs. They are incredible resources for the story that director Eugene Jarecki tells. Jarecki brings on numerous people who have been sent to jail for minor offenses; police officers who are frustrated; judges who have the unpleasant job of sending people away; and even his childhood nanny, whose son was a victim of the drug war himself.

One specific character, Carl Hart, is exceptionally intriguing. Jarecki follows Hart, who worked his way up from a drug dealer in Florida to a psychology professor at Columbia University. Jarecki uses Hart’s life story to exemplify the extremes that drugs can take people to. The most interesting thing about Hart, though, is that his son is about to be sent to jail on drug charges. Hart is relatively young, yet there is sorrow in the dichotomy of his life. He must deal with his new life while juggling the stresses of a life that he left behind.

“The House I Live In” is different from other documentaries in that it is never preachy. Many documentaries tend to throw cherry-picked facts at you and don’t even acknowledging the existence of an opposition. “The House I Live In” simply shows you the state of the war on drugs and lets you be the judge.

Jarecki may have picked his sources to only show you one side, but he never lets you know it. He maintains his integrity and objectivity for the most part. He asks viewers serious questions. When is selling drugs ok? What would you do to support your family? Would you sell drugs to support your children and spouse? Jarecki doesn’t answer these questions for you. He just provides you with information. You can make a decision yourself.

Even though it may not be receiving critical praise, “The House I Live In” is a touching look inside the war on drugs and the ways that it touches the lives of everyone involved.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Patrick Fort at Patrick.fort@colorado.edu.

Patrick Fort

Patrick Fort is a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is a studies journalism and communication. He referees ice hockey, plays music and will accept any MarioKart challenge. Contact CU Independent Audio Director Patrick Fort at Patrick.fort@colorado.edu

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