Eugene Jarecki is a smart cookie; at his first meeting with Brad Pitt and Plan B Entertainment he recognized a fellow traveler. This wasn't like his other studio meetings. "He's a ridiculously bright and thoughtful guy,"Jarecki says. "He chooses projects carefully, he talks about rich content: 'is there meaning, is there a transcendent reason to do a movie here?'"
So Jarecki was encouraged to bring up some of his best ideas–including a doc on the war on drugs that, years later, became "The House I Live In." Pitt was behind it all the way, and Jarecki kept him informed as the years went by. Pitt finally saw the film, which won the Grand Jury doc prize at Sundance, a few months ago in London. And now he's doing a rare thing for him–he did it only once before, he says, on the 2006 Lost Boys of Sudan doc "God Grew Tired of Us"–he's coming on as an executive producer.
Pitt wants to help push this movie out and get it seen, whether it's in Louisiana and Oklahoma prisons or 150 churches around the country. (Jarecki is releasing it himself. Here's my earlier interview.) Pitt could also help to get the film nominated for an Oscar, which with the new documentary rules will require a bigger spotlight than ever–just to get the doc branch to see the film.
"The House I Live In" could change the way Americans see their own country and its policies. "The drug war is nonsensical," Pitt told me just before he introduced the movie to a surprised audience at the Sunset 5 Friday night. "It's such a backward–it actually perpetuates itself, when you make a bust, you make a profit, and draw other people in, it's an endless cycle. We pretend there's some kind of success if there's even a bust."
Pitt admires Jarecki's humanriarian approach, he says. "I never looked at it that way. There's an honest sincerity which I respect. It's a real sea change. He's getting it to places that don't get to see docs. I want to support that as much as possible."
For his part, Jarecki recognizes what Pitt can do: "He opens the door to people who wouldn't think about it, wouldn't see it without him."