Iraq and the Taliban are not the only ones embroiled in a war with the U.S.
To many who live south of the border, there is a different kind of war going on, and it can be seen with the more than $1 trillion spent and 45 million drug-related arrests that have been made in the U.S. since 1971.
The U.S. has become the No. 1 country in the world in jailing its citizens. Approximately 2.5 million people are incarcerated, with more than 50 per cent of the prison population in jail because of drug-related offences.
Many of those are incarcerated because of marijuana-related infractions. One in eight of those jailed are African-American.
Those statistics come from the recently released 2012 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury prize winning documentary The House I Live In.
The film, which will be shown as part of the 19th annual Vernon International Film Festival, starting this week, is of particular interest to those who have been fighting the same war here in Canada.
“One in 100 Americans are in jail and (the war on drugs) has spawned a huge industry with prison guard unions, the construction industry and private contractors,” said David Kennedy, a retired doctor who had his practice in Vernon.
Kennedy is a member of Stop the Violence B.C., a coalition of professionals concerned about drug-related violence. He will introduce The House I Live In when it screens as part of the festival at the Towne Cinema on Monday at 5 p.m. He will also speak for 10 minutes following the film.
Stop the Violence B.C. primarily wants to see changes in the policy of the prohibition of marijuana. Its members have addressed municipal councils across the province with the goal of decriminalization in order to stop turf wars and gang-related violence.
“We want to get rid of the Black Market, which gives the power to the gangs and dealers, as well as the corruption of the police. We want to see a new process where we can get to a place that we can legally regulate, tax and manage the drug situation under public health,” said Kennedy.
That message seems to catching on in B.C. as at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention in September, a majority of members called for the UBCM to lobby the appropriate levels of government to decriminalize pot and research its regulation and taxation.
“If we prohibit it, we can’t regulate it,” said Kennedy.
The House I Live In looks at all sides of the issue and features interviews with everyone from a street-corner dealer to a narcotics officer, an inmate, to a federal judge, among others. It also looks at how mandatory minimum sentencing has seen the proportion of black offenders grow from under 10 per cent to more that 29 per cent of those incarcerated.
“One sees the harm from the policy and it’s similar to up here, not blacks to whites, but with the disproportionate amount of aboriginal people in our jails. It also affects the poor. Those who have their roots in poverty turn to the drug trade,” said Kennedy.
The Vernon Film Society’s International Film Festival opens on Friday and continues to Thursday, March 14. Films will be shown daily during that time at the Towne Cinema at 5 and 7:30 p.m.
The festival starts with Hyde Park on Hudson followed by Inch’Allah Friday. On Saturday, French-Austrian film Amour, the Academy award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, will be shown Saturday followed by environmental documentary Chasing Ice.
Sunday’s screenings include Germany’s Barbara and the Oscar winning film for Best Documentary Feature, Searching for Sugar Man.
On Monday, after The House I Live In, is Argentina’s Chinese Take-away, while Tuesday will feature Portugal’s Tabu and the unscripted-visual film Samsara.
Canadian-South African film Inescapable will screen March 13 followed by the Palestinian-Israeli-French film 5 Broken Cameras.
The festival wraps up March 14 with Mad Ship, set in the Canadian Prairies in the midst of the Great Depression, and with Farewell My Queen, winner of nine French César Awards.
Tickets for each film are $7 or $30 for a five-film pass, available at both the Towne Cinema box office or the Bean Scene coffee house.
For more information or a full description of all the films, visit the Vernon Film Society’s website at www.vernonfilmsociety.bc.ca.