Documentary of the Day – Dark Days

The thing I love most about documentaries is that intimate look at a society or culture that I have no connection with.  I like seeing subcultures of life existing amongst or under the mainstream as it is a nice contrast to the layered life that we all live.  I have only heard in passing from news articles and televisions that there are supposed “mole” people living under cities.  Television shows use them as plot device for episodes when they have a need to show about a lawless society.  Movies use these underground societies to show a much uncivilized look at society and how control has pushed them further down under the limelight of current society.  But while the plot device is OK to use, it is grounded in a bit of realism as the 2000 documentary Dark Days shows, it’s a community of people with no hope and future living together and trying to make something out of nothing.

Novice filmmaker Marc Singer lived in the bowels of a midtown Manhattan railway station for two years to shoot this harrowing account of the day-to-day existence of the homeless. Shot in noirish black and white, Singer shows how society’s discarded and disenfranchised fashion a community of sorts in the sunless labyrinth of the station’s transit tunnels.  ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi

This is a fascinating documentary about a society that exists right under us.  The homeless of Manhattan are both disenfranchised and without hope by the society that lives above them.  Through their despair and circumstances, they find a community that understands them and helps one another out through the use of a makeshift community in an abandoned tunnel.  Marc Singer ended up crafting a narrative, one that has a beginning, middle and end that plays out more like a story rather than a voyeuristic view of the subjects.  While Singer is documenting the lives of the homeless in the tunnels, The city of New York and Amtrak are working on shutting down the tunnel system, basically dooming the people underground to wandering the streets of New York with no hope in sight and no safety nets.  The film does have a silver lining as the ministrations of Singer helped get the word out to social workers to help the homeless there, giving them a small glimmer of hope and a roof over their heads.

The immersion that Singer took to his documentary is incredibly noble.  He gave up his New York lifestyle and saving to help out a small portion of the homeless, employing them as crew and focusing the film on their lives.  He gives them a therapeutic outlet for telling about their lives and how they ended up here.  Some people might watch and hear the stories and think, well they brought it upon themselves.  I would be inclined to agree some of the time, but they are just cast aside after making bad decisions in their life and never given an opportunity by those that are in power.  I can understand the need for Singer to live amongst them, the issue trust is a big thing for the people down there as nobody really trusts them in life.  By living with them, he can have them open up to the camera and give us a glimpse into their pasts and what had them end up where they are now.

It’s almost heartbreaking to hear about their plights, the decisions that they made and what ultimately lies ahead for them.  I don’t want to dive into their stories because I truly think that you need to see this documentary.  Singer did an incredible job at showcasing and contrasting the films look with a sparse soundtrack.  His stark, noirish black and white film adds a bit more bleakness to the film and the plight of those in the community.  It’s an unflinching and sympathetic view on a society that is truly beneath most people.  They are cast aside for their problems, giving little hope and no connection to anyone else but their own kind.  It raises serious questions about the state of homelessness in America and looks for answers amongst the despair.

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

2 Responses to Documentary of the Day – Dark Days

  1. amelie says:

    This blog is something I’ve been looking for forever- I love documentaries and your selection is really amazing (because they are not the mainstream ones everybody has already seen). I love documentaries for a different reason then you though- I like the fact that they show the aspect of society that I can identify with and emphasise with even when it is a society strange to me.
    I’ll start watching the ones you recommend
    Great blog!

    • Nick says:

      Wow thank you for the compliment. I like documentaries for a lot of different reasons, each one fulfills a certain reason I have for watching them. With Netflix, I can watch all the documentaries I want which lets me view ones that might have missed my radar. Keep checking back this month and early March as I will be attending a documentary film festival, which I will write daily on and update twitter with new reactions.

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