The doc-maker Eugene Jarecki deftly mixes personal experience with wider social, political and historical inquiry in this saddening, incisive film about the failure of America’s four-decade-long ‘war on drugs’. Jarecki begins with the close-to-home story of his family’s past African-American housekeeper, who lost her son to heroin. From there, he takes an intimate journey through America’s courts, prisons and projects, meeting those on both sides of a divide that was formalised by Nixon in the late ’60s, ratified by Reagan in the ’80s and has been confirmed ever since by state institutions that pour drug-related offenders into prisons. The film’s voices include ‘The Wire’ creator David Simon alongside cops and convicts. Jarecki harnesses their ideas and experiences to conclude that America’s fight against drugs was born of various moments of majority self-interest and that it continues to perpetuate and rely on divisions of race and class. He tells a complex story with troubling ease.
Friday November 23 2012