An Example of The Prophetic Voice in a Contemporary Film

The process of inversion by the prophetic voice is a tactic that is used quite often to this day. For example, the 2012 film The House I Live In, a film about the war on drugs, sets up two opposing narratives right away. On the one hand there is the dominant narrative: America is a free society and drug abuse is “public enemy number one.” In the first few minutes of the film, we are treated to a press conference of President Nixon saying just that: drug abuse is “public enemy number one.” Next, director Eugene Jarecki constructs a montage consisting of images of this “war on drugs” set to the audio of subsequent presidents and public officials essentially expressing the idea that American is a free democracy for all. After Nixon, we hear (among others) Ronald Reagan, LBJ, and finally Barack Obama telling this same story. The rest of the film, consisting of details, interviews and on the ground encounters within the actual war on drugs, systematically dismantles or inverts this dominant narrative. Jarecki reveals that our American society is far from free for many people, and public enemy number one for this section of society may in fact be the war on drugs itself. The film is about how the system brought about by the war on drugs actually takes away freedom from those unlucky enough to be born at the wrong time or the wrong place or with the wrong color skin. This is the prophetic voice, designed to upset the comfortable, raise questions and confront injustice.


– from the upcoming book “How to Film the Truth: The Story of Documentary Film As a Spiritual Journey” to be released in the Summer of 2018 by Wipf & Stock