Dark Days
Going underground. Subterranean New Yorkers in search of dignity...
dir Marc Singer
with Ralph, Tommy, Dee, Henry, Atoulio, Brian, Tito, Greg, Esteban, et al
release US 30.Aug.00; UK 9.Mar.01
awards Audience Award, Best Cinematography, Freedom of Expression Award (Sundance 00)
00/US 1h26
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Marc Singer's award-winning documentary takes us deep underneath Manhattan, where a community of homeless people have lived for 25 years alongside the underground train tracks. A cross section of the society above, these are young and old, multi-ethnic men and women who are making the most of a terrible situation, struggling to find dignity in appalling conditions and fighting to overcome the problems and misjudgements that led them to this kind of life. Yet as we get to know them more, our hearts warm to them--their homes are surprisingly cosy, with full kitchens, TVs and even pet dogs and cats (to help keep the rats at bay!). They make a "living" scavenging above ground, then selling what they find. Privacy, independence, decent weather year-round. Life isn't that bad, relatively speaking. And then the train officials decide to evict them.

The raw honesty here is startling--these people open themselves up to the camera in such a candid way that we can't help but be drawn into their world. These are likeable, funny, clever people (although some have serious problems), and they carry almost unbearable burdens of guilt, memories of families long gone and regrets about past choices. They're all utterly natural--without pretensions, never wallowing--with vivid personalities. And Singer's clever direction brings a timeless quality to their story (partly due to the gorgeous black and white photography). We become so attached to these people that the turn at the end is amazingly moving. Without being preachy at all, these people have a lot to say.
themes, language, drugs cert 15 5.Mar.01

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall