Dark Days

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Dark Days
"Singer's documentary is more a tribute to his friends."

In New York, it's safer underground.

"No one in their right minds would go down there," Tito says.

Copy picture

Later, Ralph says he doesn't want to stay in a shelter for the homeless, because your things get nicked.

Marc Singer, an Englishman with no experience of filmmaking spent two years living in the subway tunnels with these people.

"Eighty per cent are crackheads," an ex-junkie says. "They lose sight of reality, become paranoid about everything."

You don't see this. Singer's documentary is more a tribute to his friends. They take care of each other and themselves. With rats scuttling through debris outside their makeshift huts, they take cleanliness seriously. And some of them are good cooks.

Dee's dwelling is burnt down by someone who bore a grudge. You watch the planks blaze, but don't meet the perpetrator or discover what the row was about.

Dee is a strong-willed black woman, who smokes crack cocaine because she likes it. In tears, she remembers her children who were killed in a fire a long time ago.

"I liked the responsibility of being a mother," she says. "I miss all those things. I do."

Ralph talks of when his five-year-old daughter was raped and murdered and how he blames himself for not being there for her, because he was in jail. Stories like these feel less like confession than the fabric of broken lives.

Singer presents a record of a moment in the history of these resilient people. After life in the subterranean village, they will never be as free again.

Many questions remain unanswered, not least the political motivation behind their forced eviction. Beneath the city sidewalks, they shared something. Call it independence. Call it family.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Dark Days packshot
Documentary following the people who survive in the New York underground.
Amazon link

Director: Marc Singer

Starring: Marc Singer

Year: 2000

Runtime: 84 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA

Festivals:

EIFF 2000

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