of the most powerful components of your film was the use of old footage to show
just how bipartisan has been the zeal to wage this war on drugs. Did
you go back to some of the politicians whose speeches you cited -- like Vice
President Joe Biden or Bill Clinton -- and ask them whether and to what extent
their views have changed on the failed war on drugs?
JARECKI: No, we didn't in the case of Bill Clinton and Joe Biden. We did in the case of current policy makers because the film was not really designing itself to give a platform for mea culpas or for expressions of regret by former policy makers. My film is dominated, the screen time is dominated, by these individual stories of people whose lives are like directly touched by the war on drugs. It's more a revenge of the voiceless truth than it is a perpetuation of the top-down structure.
talked to a federal judge and police officers and journalists and investigators,
and they all were very poignant, each in their own way. But there wasn't a
current prosecutor of victims' rights voice, at least none that I can remember.
Were these people simply unwilling to involve themselves in the project?
JARECKI: When we approached people who were active prosecutors, they were a little bit more uncomfortable in appearing. And I think the reason is that the war on drugs is very hard to defend these days. Its track record of failure is so vast, and so manifest, that you find greater defensiveness, greater anxiety, about communicating.
But also, interestingly enough, I don't see the prosecutor as the villain in the equation. I think prosecutions in America are villainous but I think it's the laws as written by Congress, namely the mandatory minimum sentencing laws, that have so warped the administration of justice in our courts. That overly empower the prosecutor and disempower judges.
Americans always like a good villain, and one of the reasons they like it is that it makes the world safe for them to be apolitical. So I didn't want to put prosecutors on screen who might have come across as
provocative, tough-as-nails, tough on crime. Because if there is a good villain in the movie, then they can just blame that guy.
the same lines, I like the idea of traveling to prisons to share the film with
inmates and prison officials. But what about the idea of taking the film, and
your message, to places of political power, like police and prosecutors'
conferences? Have you received any invitations to take your show into this
JARECKI: We've done that. We have been at several conferences with law enforcement people, we've been at conferences with DAs, conferences of sheriffs, conferences of judges, conferences of defense lawyers. It's a very fundamental part of our plan, alongside what we do in prisons, churches, schools, and community centers, to people who are on the receiving end of the war on drugs power rather than the enforcement end. We show it to the powerful and the powerless.