“THE HOUSE I LIVE IN” | director, Eugene Jarecki
[PREMIERE SCREENING: Saturday, January 21 6:00 pm –Temple Theatre, Park City]
“Why am I a filmmaker?” I often ask myself the same question. I ask it because first and foremost I guess I am less an artist than simply a small-p-political person who is moved by human struggle anywhere around me and who, however naively or presumptuously, wants to do something about it. My new film, The House I Live In, examines the destructive impact of the War on Drugs on poor and minority Americans and what can be done to reform it. It is my most personal film to date and probably most reflective of why I make films in the first place.
My parents both came from families that fled persecution (in Russia and Germany), and from early on I was taught that my life would only make sense if I took the knowledge of my family’s experience in Europe and brought it to bear in the defense of those suffering in today’s world. As a kid, the ideal of being politically engaged and concerned with social justice was fed to me with my breakfast cereal.
Of course, today, we are living at a time of tremendous human struggle and contradiction. What we see everywhere is an increasing gap in this world — I think in many ways of a scale unprecedented in human history — between the powerful and the powerless, between those who control the narrative of our lives and the voiceless, between shortsightedness and mindfulness. And that, I suppose, is where I hope my films give me an opportunity to contribute constructively to the public discourse. I guess I could have chosen a different path to manifest my feelings about these matters, but I care greatly about the collective experience of watching movies communally in a theater (with all the popcorn and noisy candy wrappers and sticky floors) and sharing with strangers those great reckonings in little rooms that bring us together. (I remember after watching Robert Duvall’s The Apostle in a theater that a stranger across the aisle and I struck up an impromptu conversation about religion and society that lasted for almost an hour and has stayed with my thinking ever since).
At the same time, I have long feared we will watch the movies of the future all glued to our ever-shrinking handheld devices, cut off from one another, and undermined, I think, in our capacity to join forces in the way that is needed to achieve real betterment. But in 2010, my thoughts on this began to change when I made Move Your Money, a viral video that encouraged Americans outraged at the behavior of corporate America to move their money from predatory too-big-to-fail banks into community banks and credit unions. I’m told the video actually resulted in people all over the country changing their banking habits. So alongside The House I Live In, I am also now making a series of viral shorts about the drug war to work in tandem to the longform film.
So now, I think of myself as a political creature who has the occasional privilege to make a longform film on a subject of great importance to me, and, alongside that, I can always reach out to the public in a way that is fast, immediate, and uncompromised by the demands of feature filmmaking. When I do, I know I will find that there are so many people out there like me in the far reaches of this world who share the same dreams and concerns and who are drawn ever closer together, just as the forces around us try ever harder to keep us apart.