Wild At Heart movie review - The House I Live In
Wild Bill Ketelhut provides the "blog" to this anti-blog
Wild At Heart
I have been a fan of the TV series "Breaking Bad" as we watch Walt transform from a dweebish teacher to ruthless drug thug in a compelling narrative. However entertaining the series is, we know that drug life isn't all that exciting with rare exception. Most drug use that I have seen has involved people living on the streets or college kids getting wasted playing D&D. Not the most glamorous of stuff.
I also grew up with Nancy Reagan's "War On Drugs" (not forgetting the comic book "Reagan's Raiders" as a Rambo-ized Ronnie straps on the big guns and takes on Columbian drug lords) which made the fight seem worthy and winnable. However the reality has come to show us the war has had moments both good and bad but drugs are still as prevalent as they have always been even if the types have changed. "The House I Live In" looks at the errors we have made in the war on drugs and at the misguided policies that will make sure we never win that war.
The majority of the documentary covers things that I have seen over and over again. Cops that admit to profiling and how the quota systems allow us to focus more on drugs that more serious crimes. Judges who seem to realize that mandatory sentences do more harm than good. Politicians that want to try to update the laws despite political pressures otherwise.
The main issue it skirts around is that what good does it do to jail people for minor offenses and then release them without addressing the issues that caused the to get into drugs in the first place. At face value, any intelligent person should recognize that as a recipe for failure but a lot of big name politicians seem either ignorant or just don't care. As much as people tend to want to write off Nixon, at least his policies looked to treat the symptoms of the drug problem which most presidents since have only glanced at occasionally.
If you are not familiar with the war on drugs, you might get something out of this including a nice section talking about how drugs, which used to be common (remember real cocaine in Coca-cola) came to be demonized as a way to allow the politicians to keep down certain minorities (such as how California trying to stem off the cheap labor of the Chinese made opium illegal, etc).
The film also frames the issue in economic instead of purely racial terms though they do seem to go hand in hand. We need to remember that a number of prisons are set up to house criminals as a profit making venture so they need to keep full which seems to be the wrong focus on something so serious. How can we win the war on drugs when economics say it is better not to reform people and let them find there way back behind bars if they get out.
All in all, the film asks some good questions. There are some characters that show up I would like to see more of to build up more understanding of the issues that cause some to descend into the pits but this documentary tries to do too much. The drug issue is big and complex and this documentary tries hard to look at all sides which is a daunting task. It is a valiant effort but I think it falls short and wish it tried to stay focused on one aspect and explore it to the fullest.
Still, most people will see this as a good primer for gaining a good look at this important topic and while not as focused as I would like, there are many good parts that bring food for thought. Overall I would give this documentary a B-.
The movie opens at the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak today.