Eugene Jarecki

Eugene Jarecki is an award-winning director of dramatic and documentary films. He is a two-time winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, Emmy, and Peabody Awards. “Combining the skills of journalist and poet,” writes Variety, “Eugene Jarecki sets the gold standard for political documentaries.” Often focused on corruption, exploitation, or injustice in contemporary life, Jarecki’s films weave compassionate storytelling with rigorous investigation.

His films include Why We Fight (2005 Sundance Grand Jury Prize/Peabody), Reagan (2011 Emmy), The House I Live In (2012 Sundance Grand Jury Prize, 2013 Peabody), The Trials of Henry Kissinger (2002 Amnesty International Award), Freakonomics, The Opponent, and Quest of the Carib Canoe. His most recent feature, The King, nominated for a 2019 Grammy Award for Best Music Film of the Year, had its North American premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, following its international premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017.

Jarecki is also a noted thinker and activist on matters of U.S. defense, social justice, and foreign policy. He is the author of The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril (Simon & Schuster).

Early life and educationEdit

Jarecki was born in New Haven, CT, grew up in New York, and attended Princeton University. He is the son of Henry Jarecki and Gloria Jarecki, a former film critic at Time Magazine. Jarecki is the brother of fellow filmmaker Andrew Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans, The Jinx) and finance executive Thomas A. Jarecki. His half-brother Nicholas Jarecki (Arbitrage) is also a filmmaker.


Jarecki trained as a stage director at Princeton but pivoted to film after graduating. His first short film Season of the Lifterbees premiered at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival before winning both a Student Academy Award and the Time Warner Grand Prize at the Aspen Film Festival.[1]

Jarecki then directed two feature films released in 2000. One was the documentary Quest of the Carib Canoe, which documents an effort by indigenous Carib Indians of the Island of Dominica to build an ancient ocean-going canoe and retrace their ancestors' path from South America's Orinoco Delta in what is now modern Guyana to the islands of the Caribbean.[2] His second film that year was a dramatic feature called The Opponent released by Lionsgate. In 2002, his first theatrical documentary feature The Trials of Henry Kissinger was released to critical acclaim. Winner of the 2002 Amnesty International Award, the film was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and has been broadcast in over thirty countries. In 2002, Trials was selected to launch both the Sundance Channel's DOCday venture as well as the BBC's digital channel, BBC Four.

By 2005, Jarecki had distinguished himself as a filmmaker unafraid of serious, penetrating investigations when his film Why We Fight about the role of America's military-industrial complex in leading the nation into the tragic quagmire of the Iraq War, won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and a Peabody Award. He also received a nomination for Best Documentary Screenplay from the Writers Guild of America for the film.[3]

Alongside directors Alex Gibney, Morgan Spurlock, and Rachel Grady, Jarecki then directed a segment of the 2010 feature Freakonomics based on the 2005 book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by economist Steven D. Levitt and writer Stephen J. Dubner. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival that year.

In 2011, Jarecki returned to the Sundance Film Festival with his Emmy Award-winning film Reagan, before its national television release on HBO on what would have been 40th President's 100th birthday. The next year, The House I Live In, his film about America’s War on Drugs, won him a second Grand Jury Prize at Sundance as well as a second Peabody Award. The film, produced by Danny Glover, John Legend, Brad Pitt, and Russell Simmons, was released theatrically in several countries and was exhibited in over 130 U.S. prisons, churches, and statehouses, as well as on Capitol Hill. Along with the music video of the same name, featuring John Legend, and the viral short "JUST SAY the War on Drugs", both directed by Jarecki, the film is credited with changing the national conversation on U.S. state and federal drug policy.[4]

In 2014, Jarecki took part in the first Ted Talk in the history of Cuba at Havana's Teatro Nacional.[5] Events that occurred in the days leading up to the talk became the subject of Jarecki's 2016 short film, The Cyclist (El Ciclista) which he directed for The New Yorker/Amazon.[6]

In 2015, Jarecki served as Executive Producer on the documentary feature film (T)ERROR, directed by Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliff, which won Jarecki a Sundance Special Jury Prize and his second Emmy Award. That same year, Jarecki also Executive Produced Laura Israel's feature documentary Don't Blink – Robert Frank about the late legendary photographer's work and career.

His most recent film, The King, produced by Steven Soderbergh, Errol Morris, and Rosanne Cash, premiered at Cannes and Sundance before its 2018 theatrical release by Universal Pictures and Oscilloscope Laboratories and television premiere on PBS Independent Lens. Nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Music Film, The King is a musical road trip in Elvis Presley’s 1963 Rolls Royce that features Alec Baldwin, Chuck D, Emmylou Harris, Mike Myers, Rosanne Cash, Van Jones, and Ethan Hawke, among others, tracing the rise and fall of Elvis as a metaphor for the country he left behind. Alongside the film, Jarecki created a series of music videos for artists such as Lana Del Rey, M. Ward, The Handsome Family, Immortal Technique, The Stax Music Academy All-Stars and more.

In 2018, Jarecki’s first public contemporary art exhibit, entitled Promised Land, co-created by Laura Israel, Alex Bingham, and UK-based artist Georgina Hill, and produced by Andrew McLain, was featured at Miami Art Basel as part of “This is Not America” at the Faena Hotel, Miami Beach. A multiscreen video presentation, Promised Land was inspired by Jarecki’s 2018 film, The King.[7]

In 2019, it was announced that Jarecki is returning to dramatic filmmaking with a yet-untitled action film about a Saharan, Tuareg nomad, who seeks revenge for a crime committed against his tribal customs. Jarecki wrote the screenplay with his 15-year-old son Jonas, based on the 1980 best-selling novel Tuareg by Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa. Addison O'Dea is producing. [8]

Commentary & ActivismEdit

As a public intellectual on U.S. domestic and international policy, Jarecki has appeared on a variety of national television programs including The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maher, Fox & Friends, and Charlie Rose. In 2010, he created the short film Move Your Money, encouraging Americans to move their banking from "too big to fail" banks into smaller community banks and credit unions. It became a viral sensation leading to an estimated 4 million Americans moving their money out of major banks.[citation needed]

Eugene Jarecki and Julian Assange as a hologram

Jarecki is also the Founder and Executive director of The Eisenhower Project, an academic public policy group, dedicated, in the spirit of Dwight D. Eisenhower, to studying the forces that shape American foreign policy. He has been a visiting fellow at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies and is the author of The American Way of War (2008), published by Simon & Schuster/Free Press.

Jarecki has also participated as a speaker at several international conferences including Ted, Nantucket Project, and's "TRANS4M" gathering for the Foundation.

At the 2014 Nantucket Project, Jarecki conducted a public interview with WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange as a hologram, beamed in to Nantucket from his place of asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.[9][10][11]

Jarecki wrote in The Guardian before the event, "it crosses my mind I may be abetting a crime or violating international extradition laws. But I reassure myself that, in this regard, the worldwide web remains a kind of wild wild west, and the virtual escape of a person is not (yet?) a crime."[12]

As a sequel to this interview, Jarecki publically interviewed former U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning at the 2017 Nantucket Project, after her 35-year prison sentence was commuted by President Obama. In the Guardian, Jarecki wrote, "Manning sees connections in the duty of the soldier who uncovers high crimes, to the death of secrecy in the digital age, to the role of the individual in a society where privacy is as besieged as sexual orientation."[13]


Feature LengthEdit

Shorts & SegmentsEdit


  • The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril (Simon & Schuster, 2008)


Eugene Jarecki at the 66th Annual Peabody Awards

From BBC Storyville interview about Why We Fight:

  • "It really followed on from the experience we had making The Trials of Henry Kissinger. That film came out in about 130 U.S. cities, and in every one I met with audiences and talked about the film. I thought I had made a film about US foreign policy but the audiences seemed to be most interested in talking about Henry Kissinger the man. To me, that felt politically impotent, because the forces that are driving American foreign policy are so much larger than any one man. With the next film I wanted to go further – I didn't want to stop at an easy villain or a simple scapegoat. I wanted to have a much more holistic approach that really took on the whole system."

From Huffington Post on Obama and Afghanistan:

  • "While the wisdom of escalation in Afghanistan is, by any historical standard, deeply questionable, Obama's willingness to employ rhetoric where statesmanship and vision are needed is disheartening. One might have hoped that, given the groundswell of support with which he was elected, the President might have felt buoyed to exercise greater resistance to the usual runnings of Washington and the ceaseless repetition of history."


  1. ^ Kay, Jeremy (27 January 2006). "NOW Politics: Eugene Jarecki". PBS. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  2. ^ Sullivan, Lynne M. (2004). Adventure Guide to Dominica and St Lucia. Jefferson, NC: Hunter Publishing. p. 65. ISBN 1-58843-393-5.
  3. ^ Kay, Jeremy (16 January 2007). "WGA unveils nominees for documentary screenplay award". Screen Daily. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
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  8. ^ Dale, Martin (December 5, 2019). "Sundance Winner Eugene Jarecki Prepares 'Tuareg Project' in Morocco". Variety. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  9. ^ Locker, Melissa (2014-09-28). "Julian Assange Beamed Into Nantucket as a Hologram". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2014-12-15.
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  12. ^ Jarecki, Eugene (2014-07-27). "Nantucket Project: why we're sleepwalking into a digital future". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-12-15.
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External linksEdit