by Laura Hutson
Ready to get heavy? Two of the most compelling, intense documentaries you'll ever see just dropped on Netflix Instant, and if you've got it in you to watch them both, you'll walk away with a new way of looking at the world. They're that affecting.
The House I Live In has a star-studded list of executive producers (Brad Pitt and Danny Glover, to name just two) and provides an intimate view of what the War on Drugs really is. The Wire's David Simon provides some of the doc's most astute lines. "It'd be one thing if it's draconian and it worked," he says. "But it's draconian and it doesn't work, and it just leads to war."
The New Jim Crow-author Michelle Alexander, who delivered this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day address at Vanderbilt, is featured prominently among the talking heads with opinion-changing ideas to share:
Well, in any war, you've got to have an enemy. And when you think about the impact, particularly on poor people of color, you know, there are more African-Americans under correctional control today, in prisoner jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. And that's something we haven't been willing to look in the mirror and ask ourselves. What's really going on?
The Interrupters deals with largely the same subject matter as House, but from a street-level vantage point that is gut-wrenching and filled with complex characters David Simon would be envious of — most notably Ameena Matthews, whose stirring charisma moves the film along as well as any scene-stealing Hollywood A-lister.
Here's what Jack Silverman had to say about The Interrupters when it was featured in the 2010 Nashville Film Festival:
From director Steve James, whose 1994 film Hoop Dreams was one of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of the past two decades, comes this up-close look at "violence interrupters" from Chicago violence prevention organization CeaseFire. Accepting that bringing an end to gang activity is an unrealistic goal in the foreseeable future, they have one simple, though exceptionally difficult, goal: to stop people from killing each other. James follows three interrupters, all former gang members and ex-convicts, as they get tips on potential flare-ups and do their best to mediate before the shooting starts, and he also captures devastating scenes of the emotional carnage gang violence leaves in its wake. —Jack Silverman
Watch trailers for both films below, and add to your Instant Queue accordingly.