Blog Post

Eugene Jarecki: "Whether you're a humanist or just a bottom-line guy, this thing is your enemy."

Stephanie Polito

Monday afternoon, Eugene Jarecki, filmmaker of the award-winning documentary The House I Live In joined the Drug Policy Alliance’s asha bandele for a discussion of the film’s impact.

The film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2012, has had a profound impact on the growth of the reform movement to end the war on drugs. The film has been screened all over the nation, making a complicated policy issue accessible and appealing to people of all different ideologies. As Jarecki said during the call, the drug war is an enemy, “whether you're a humanist or just a bottom-line guy.”

The film has also inspired my own work in this movement. The first time I saw Jarecki’s film was at an event honoring Nannie Jeter, the film’s focus, in Baltimore, a city where the real-life damage inflicted by the war on drugs was famously fictionalized in David Simon’s acclaimed television series The Wire.

I love Baltimore. The four years I spent in the city during college are incredibly important to me, but as a student at a college whose students were overwhelmingly white and from upper-middle class families, my experience of the city was limited. Students used alcohol and other drugs with little to no consequences, while communities nearby were, and continue to be, devastated by failed drug war policies.

The House I Live In and now my work with DPA’s funded partners (organizations that receive funding through DPA’s Advocacy Grants Program) inspire me to do what I can to replace punitive drug policies with policies grounded in compassion and human rights.

During the call, Jarecki and bandele discussed the impact of the film, the importance of groups working on the ground (he gave a shout out to Dr. Iva Carruthers from Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference for her role in building a partnership between the religious community and the film), and how he sees the drug war as an “inhuman monster,” but one that is vulnerable.

The RSVP-only conversation between Jarecki and bandele inspired a rich dialogue with call participants. If you missed it, you can listen to the conversation here.

Stephanie Polito is a program associate with the Drug Policy Alliance.

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