Friday, July 07, 2006

Dark Days NYC Tunnel People

Dark Days 2000

Last night I saw an incredible documentary called Dark Days (2000). It was about a group of people living in a mostly abandoned train tunnel under New York City. The relative isolation and lack of regular homeless people threats allowed the residents to retain some measure of independence and dignity. As one tunnel resident says, "Ain't nobody in their right mind gonna come down (here)." The movie, music (courtesy of DJ Shadow), artwork and lettering were woven together contributing to a sublime experience.

I like how Roger Egbert describes the people and the community:
One thinks of documentaries about life at the bottom of the sea, where giant worms live in the warmth of sulfur vents. Life is opportunistic and finds its way everywhere, and there is something Darwinian about these tunnel dwellers, who have found a niche where they can survive. They are not, they emphasize, "homeless." [Marc] Singer heard about the tunnel people on a news broadcast. He went looking for them, and then came back to film them.
In the perpetual darkness of the tunnels, people make their homes. They build shacks out of cardboard and lumber, and fill them with furniture dragged down from above. Tapping into city lines, they have light and water, and many have stoves, refrigerators and TV sets.

A range of stories explain how people ended up down there. The main point being there is no simple, hard and fast rules that cover every situation. I was suprised to see the ages range from young adult to almost senior citizen with everything in between. Expectedly, most residents were men but two were women. The women felt relatively safe since the neighbors watched out for each other.The History of the NYC Subway Tunnels

Besides the movie, the special features were very good. "The History of the NYC Subway Tunnels" told about how the are evolved from Shantytowns to tunnels, built so that the well off didn't have to deal with ugliness of The story about how the film came together was as compeling as the film itself. My favorite was the obligatory "where are they now" update called 'Life After The Tunnel'. I was impressed that almost all of the old tunnel residents who are still alive continue to do well. It just goes to show you that when some people are down, they just need a little hand up to get back on their feet. They are not lost causes.

Lucky for us, Marc Singer is on to his next project, Dark Days in Iraq. I can't wait to see what he'll come up with next.

1 comment:

intergalactic holly hobby said...

I haven't watched life after the tunnel yet but found the movie sad and fascinating but hopeful and inspiring too.