The BBC has commissioned Eugene Jarecki (pictured), the Sundance- and Peabody-winning director behind docs such as Reagan and Why We Fight, to produce Ghetto (w/t), an ambitious, wide-ranging documentary looking at America’s war on drugs.
The BBC’s ‘Storyville’ strand ordered the 90-minute feature doc, which has backing from Impact Partners and ITVS in the U.S. and has been nearly four years in the making.
The film, from Jarecki and his New York-based outfit Charlotte Street Films, will look at how America’s drug laws have affected the poor, with a particular focus on black America.
It will aim to take a comprehensive look at the problems affecting the American underclass, while examining policies that could offer an alternative future. In the doc, Jarecki will look back at the roots of anti-drug laws in the U.S., beginning with an 1875 law that targeted Chinese-Americans by outlawing opium possession.
Talking exclusively to realscreen about the project, BBC ‘Storyville’ editor Nick Fraser – who commissioned the film – said that Jarecki has been working on the doc over the past three years, completing it in tandem with Reagan, which aired on HBO in the U.S. in February.
“It’s a very wide-ranging investigation,” said Fraser of Ghetto. “It addresses how the American underclass has been destroyed by drugs. Eugene narrates the film and has gone all over America interviewing people – judges, lawyers, families, offenders – everyone. He’s got a very considerable amount of material.
“It started being mainly about the black community [in the U.S.] and it has spiralled to encompass a kind of big view of America through the prism of the drug lords.”
The film is due to be delivered for the UK public broadcaster this autumn, and could potentially air as part of the network’s forthcoming American season, details of which were previously revealed by realscreen.
That season will air in October, and will feature Reagan, as well as Liz Garbus’s Bobby Fischer Against the World.
Jarecki is best known for Why We Fight, which won the 2005 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and picked up a Peabody Award; and for The Trials of Henry Kissinger, which was the winner of the 2002 Amnesty International Award.