|Clarence cooks dinner while Ronnie looks on outside the train tunnel where the two homeless men live.|
The documentary "Dark Days" gives an unromanticized and fascinating glimpse of the lives of a community of homeless people surviving in a train tunnel in Manhattan.
By JOSHUA TANZER
"You'd be surprised," says Ralph, from his home inside an underground Amtrak tunnel in Manhattan, "what the human mind and the human body can adjust to."
You will be surprised indeed when you see "Dark Days," a stunning documentary that burrows into a community of tunnel-dwellers somewhere under what appears to be Riverside Park. The members of this unseen underground are, by the estimate of one, more than 80 percent crackheads, many have been to prison and some show obvious mental difficulties or antisocial tendencies. But there's a striking variety in their psychology and their lives. Some have constructed modest but functional houses for themselves, and obsess about cleanliness in order to keep the rats away.
Others live more or less like the rats themselves a point made emphatically by filmmaker Marc Singer when he follows a scene of the homeless people raiding restaurant garbage bags for food with a shot of rats grabbing at abandoned scraps.
|Directed by: Marc Henry.|
Produced by: Marc Henry, Ben Freedman.
Featuring: Clarence, Dee, Greg, Henry, Julio, Ralph, Ronnie, Tito, Tommy.
Related links: Official site
The most interesting people we see in "Dark Days" are those like Ralph, especially
who understand the mistakes of their younger years and appear ready to rebuild their lives
above ground. Yet, they seem powerless to make that new start, trapped in a hole they can't climb
out of. "At first, I gave it like a cap two weeks. And then it became like home,"
says Tito, a five-year resident.
|Dee shaves Ralph's head while temporarily living in his shack.|| |
The movie has what I consider a surprise ending, which arises after Amtrak officials decide to forcibly remove the homeless people from the tunnel, and the Coalition for the Homeless comes to their defense. We have a sense of which of these people are equipped to survive in the world and which ones can't, and it would be interesting to see what has become of them a year or two after they've left the tunnel. Perhaps filmmaker Singer who spent an amazing two years below ground and put the homeless to work in the production process will make a much needed epilogue to cap this fascinating documentary.
|SEPTEMBER 4, 2000|
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