US director Eugene Jarecki has spoken about the grassroots campaign for documentary The House I Live In - and the part that Brad Pitt has taken in promoting the film.
Jarecki’s current mission is to show the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner – about the US “war on drugs” – in as many prisons as possible.
Speaking to ScreenDaily at IDFA, Jarecki said: “They represent the persecuted population of poor people who’ve been targeted by drug laws in America.”
The film reveals the huge growth in prison inmate numbers in the US since President Nixon began the war on drugs in 1971.
In taking the doc to these inmates – of which there are 2.3m in the US – the director said he was partially inspired by Johnny Cash (who performed a series of legendary concerts in prisons from Folsom to San Quentin).
“I don’t dress in black and play the guitar but I feel ten feet tall,” he said of the screenings he has held in penitentiaries throughout the US.
Jarecki is also showing the film widely in churches.
Support from Pitt
Brad Pitt, an executive producer on the doc, is one of several celebrities who’ve supported the film. Also involved are actor Danny Glover, Def Jam founder Russell Simmons and musician John Legend.
“All of them have a very formative role in dialogue with me about the making of the film and also the release of the film,” said Jarecki.
“They play a role in leveraging their celebrity to draw more attention to the film but much more to the subject, the issue and the need for reform.”
He praised Pitt for the way he has combined his influence with his “tremendous fanbase” to draw attention to the issues raised by The House I Live In.
Jarecki cited the recent decisions by Colorado and Washington voters to pass referendums legalizing marijuana for recreational use as “a massive step forward for sanity in the drug war.”
He likewise welcomes California’s Proposition 36, which will modify the State’s notorious “three strikes” law.
Asked about future projects, Jarecki said that his current focus remains primarily on the “deployment” of The House I Live In.
Richard Abramowitz’s Abramorama released the film theatrically last month. The VOD release is set for Jan 15.
Broadcasters involved are: ITVS, BBC Storyville, ZDF Arte, NHK, SBS, Al Jazeera, SVT, VPRO and YLE.
Dogwoof is releasing the film theatrically in the UK later this month and is also handling international sales.
Dogwoof is currently responding to interest in the film from distributors in Austria, Denmark, Mexico, Israel, Norway, Hong Kong, Russia and Poland. The company is expected to confirm a number of deals over the coming weeks.
North American premium VOD and home video is being handled by Filmbuff.