Eugene Jarecki

Eugene Jarecki

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The House I Live In Review


One of the finest documentaries of the year, this involving film is lucid, sharply well shot and edited, and ultimately so important that it's rather terrifying to watch. It starts as an exploration of the state of the war on drugs then follows the trail of destruction to the prison industry. It's a thrilling piece of cinema.

One of the worst ironies of American history is that, right after Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs in the late 1960s, drug use escalated precipitously, sending hundreds of thousands to prison as laws grew increasingly draconian. Today, the USA houses 25 per cent of the world's prison population - more than larger, seemingly more prison-happy countries like Russia or China - and experts are unanimous in noting that these laws specifically target poor and marginalised people. So sending them to prison only creates huge problems for society at large.

In tackling such a hot potato topic, filmmaker Jarecki (Freakonomics) wisely avoids bombarding us with statistics, even though they're here. Instead, he takes an intensely personal approach, focussing on people whose lives have been derailed by laws that tear apart families by jailing non-violent criminals far longer than necessary. This has scary ramifications as prisons have become a massive corporate industry that lobbies the government for even stricter penalties. More prisoners mean higher profits.

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Why We Fight Review

A scant two years after his brother Andrew studied the horrifying deterioration of a family dealing with a father who is convicted of pedophilia in Capturing the Friedmans, Eugene Jarecki digs back to President Eisenhower's farewell address to find the reasons and the attitudes behind our current foreign policy and our military build-up. What Eisenhower deemed "the military-industrial complex" now has become a well-over 500 billion dollar business that companies like Lockheed & Martin and Halliburton make their careers around. It's taken a year since its debut at Sundance last year, where it won the Grand Prize, but Why We Fight is finally out and ready to stir up a commotion.

First off, Republicans should not be scared of this film. Jarecki and editor Nancy Kennedy aren't looking to throw darts at one party or another. Instead, the focus of the film is to see how the need for American democracy has become an excuse to further American imperialism. Angry liberals like Gore Vidal and ex-CIA man Chalmers Johnson are given equal floor with Richard Perle and other members of the Project for the New American Century. Unlike Michael Moore's powerful but unquestionably biased Fahrenheit 9/11, Jarecki doesn't film the neoconservatives with a subversive tone. The film is based solely on facts and the interviewee's mixed bag of opinions. The only reason you could call Why We Fight anti-conservative is because it's questioning the history of the U.S.'s military thinking; the current government just happens to be conservative.

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The Trials Of Henry Kissinger Review

Where were you when our military secretly carpet bombed Cambodia in 1969? Or in 1970 when a coup was being arranged to overthrow president elect Salvador Allende in Chile? Or in 1975 when the Indonesian army invaded East Timor and killed more than 100,000 civilians? Chances are you were ensconced in your home somewhere far from danger totally unaware that such horrors were taking place. But if you were Henry Kissinger you couldn't claim such honorable innocence even though years later you would try. In a roundabout way this is what the documentary The Trials of Henry Kissinger, by Alex Gibney and Eugene Jarecki, is about. It attempts to sort out all the evidence that has surfaced in the past 20 years concerning the questionable and possibly nefarious political actions of Henry Kissinger who served as U.S. National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford between 1969 and 1977. Kissinger - who grew up in and escaped Nazi Germany - has been one of the most well-known, charismatic, and respected statesmen in the world since he rose to prominence under the much troubled Nixon administration. Somehow, though, he came out unscathed and even managed, ironically, to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Nevertheless, over the past decade skeptics have begun to surface. Most notably, journalist Seymour Hirsh as well as respected military leader General Telford Taylor both have made claims -- through interviews and books -- that Kissinger "may have needlessly sacrificed human lives to achieve strategic goals." Specifically in 1969 when he and Nixon allegedly sabotaged the Paris Peace talks - which could have ended the war in Vietnam - simply because they wanted to buy time before the U.S. elections. All of these activities were mere rumors until two years ago when journalist Christopher Hitchens' wrote a book titled The Trial of Henry Kissinger, which caused a big stir in the political world. Kissinger and his cronies denounced it but refused to press charges - presumably because they would then have to disprove the work of Hitchens (and many others), who used the Freedom of Information Act and actual government documents to not only discredit Kissinger's reputation but prove that he knew very well the deeds he helped orchestrate. This documentary isn't as damning as Hitchens' book - there is some humor from Kissinger (which isn't really too funny) and some from Alexander Haig - who defends Kissinger's actions and calls Hitchens a "sewer-pipe-sucker" - as well as neutral comments by the likes of Kissinger biographer Walter Isaacson and military officer Brent Scowcroft. But there is still a lot of convincing evidence that Kissinger qualifies as one cold, calculating, Machiavellian S.O.B. And more importantly it raises the question of accountability for world leaders - many of whom seem to escape such responsibility.

However, regarding actual legal action against Kissinger the film isn't convincing beyond a reasonable doubt mainly because there are so many other men (especially Nixon) who could equally take the blame. But unlike Hitchens' book it isn't full of contempt for its subject nor does it have the feeling of a smoking gun conspiracy. The evidence is presented straightforwardly and best of all there are numerous interviews by the likes of the aforementioned Hitchens and Hirsch as well as New York Times writes Elizabeth Becker and William Safire who have studied Kissinger's actions closely. There are also interviews by a good number who worked alongside Kissinger in those years - many of whom were wiretapped by Kissinger in the 1970s.

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