DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

DARK DAYS (director/writer: Marc Singer; cinematographer: Marc Singer; editor:  Melissa Niedich; music:  DJ Shadow; cast: Marc Singer (Himself), the Crew: Ralph, Dee, Henry, Tommy, Brian, Bernard, Lee, José, Clarence, Julio. Rick, Ronnie, Marayah, Mike, S. Henry, Esteban, Atoulio, Cathy, Joe, Tito, the Twins, Greg, Ozzy, Maria, Jasmine; Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Marc Singer/Ben Freedman; Palm Pictures and Wide Angle Pictures in association with the Sundance Channel; 2000)

"The documentary is amazing."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Novice British documentary filmmaker Marc Singer in the 1990s lived for two years with his unusual subjects,  the 'mole people,' underground at Penn Station in NYC.  The untrained filmmaker, in his first film, uses the homeless as his film crew, as he sympathetically depicts how they survive in such a dark, rat infested and inhospitable environment. Singer tells the story of the subterranean dwellers in their own words, without casting any aspersions on their misfortune. It was his hope to call attention to their plight and get them proper help. The only thing unconvincing about this unique documentary was the 'happy ending,' that shows the tunnel dwellers resettled with above ground accommodations and seemingly willing to undergo a change of a lifestyle they previously couldn't and wouldn't accept. 

The documentary is amazing because Singer commits himself to living in the same harsh conditions as his 75 or so subjects, and uses a 16mm camera he previously had no knowledge of to record the experience. In the six years Singer spent trying to get the film released, he ended up destitute himself. While filming Singer lived in a makeshift shack in the underground shantytown with mostly crack addicts, runaways, hustlers and the homeless. Singer's stark black-and-white photography and the matter-of-fact direct responses to the interview process of the outsider community, makes this an unusual human condition film.

Without waste disposal, running water, and living amidst garbage in a depressingly dark setting, the tunnel dwellers point out that at least they're not 'hopeless.' Some rig up devices to tap into free electricity and seem glad they have no bills to pay for their residency. But the bleakness of the tunnel dwellers' trip should be a lesson to stay off crack or you might also be reduced to living in such squalor.

Dark Days covers up until the late '90s, just after Amtrak evicted the mole people and the Coalition for the Homeless found them housing in city apartments.

REVIEWED ON 4/27/2014       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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