In a myth-busting new film, director Stanley Nelson looks back on the crack epidemic on the 1980s and how the government harmed the black community

Nestled in Jungle Fever, Spike Lee’s meditation on interracial love, is a harrowing depiction of how crack consumes and corrupts. In a supporting role, Samuel L Jackson plays Gator, a man so furiously possessed by the drug that he at one point storms his own mother’s home and runs off with her television set, which he sells to fuel his addiction. Later we find him in the “Taj Mahal,” a Harlem crack house that looks like Hades: surreal, decrepit, and filled with hundreds of lost souls.

Related: The Business of Drugs: inside the economics of America’s longest war

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