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Sundance Prize-Winner 'House I Live In' Heads for Cinemas: Jarecki Aims 'to reach as many Americans as I can'

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by Anne Thompson
August 14, 2012 4:58 PM
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"The House I Live In"
"The House I Live In"

It's taken a while, but filmmaker Eugene Jarecki has finally cobbled together his dream team to release his must-see Sundance Jury-Prize Winning doc "The House I Live In," an incisive and incendiary expose of America's war on drugs and prison system. The movie will hit cinemas on October 5. The PR campaign will be coordinated by 42West, PR Collaborative, and Acme PR, with BOND Strategy and Influence running digital marketing. John Sloss's Cinetic Media is handling North American rights and Dogwoof is handling international distribution. The Ford Foundation and RiverStyx Foundation are leading the film’s grassroots outreach.

"The House I Live In" might win next year's doc Oscar. It tackles a subject that you think you know a little about--America's war on drugs--and in excruciating detail shows you how the whole system is broken and dysfunctional.

My interview with Jarecki is here. He's on a mission to use this movie as a tool to raise awareness of the systematic problems with our country's approach to chasing, convicting, sentencing and imprisoning drug users and sellers. America is the world's biggest jailer. How does our prison system perpetuate itself?

The movie shows you how. It's a complex problem and the solutions will also be hard to come by. Clearly, our drug laws have to change, and the American people need to stop encouraging politicians to pander to law and order sentiments. To Jarecki, it's more about "being smart on crime" than "being tough on crime."

Thus Jarecki and Cinetic Media's John Sloss are pursuing this innovative distribution approach which does not involve going through an established studio distributor like Sony Pictures Classics, which released Jarecki's last picture, "Why We Fight." He hasn't forgotten Ralph Nader's suggestion that he didn't deploy that film as a consciousness-raising weapon as well as he might have. While Jarecki says that SPC did a "very good job," he adds, "the world has changed."

"I want to reach as many Americans as I can," says Jarecki, who is ready to wage a grassroots political marketing campaign across the country, using social media and multiple digital platforms, to jumpstart a conversation about how to wreak serious change, so that when people leave the theater they are moved to do something, "to move that needle legislatively."

To that end, he has raised more than $700,000 toward a direct outreach campaign specifically geared to finding organization partners in each locality, from Calfornia, where groups are working to repeal the three strikes law, to New York City, where ex-police chief Bratton--"America's sheriff"-- has sway. Jarecki already has 70 to 80 partners lined up to reform a criminal justice system, he says, that is "morally and economically bankrupt." He believes that with or without his movie, the zeitgeist is poised for change, that the American public is "overwhelmingly ready."

Produced by Jarecki and Melinda Shopsin, "The House I Live In" executive producers are Danny Glover, Nick Fraser, John Legend, Russell Simmons, and Sally Jo Fifer.  It is a co-production of the BBC, ARTE, and ITVS.

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