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Near Penn Station, next to the Amtrak tracks, squatters have been living for years. Marc Singer goes underground to live with them, and films this "family." A dozen or so men and one woman talk about their lives: horrors of childhood, jail time, losing children, being coke-heads. They scavenge, they've built themselves sturdy one-room shacks; they have pets, cook, chat, argue, give each other haircuts. A bucket is their toilet. Leaky overhead pipes are a source of water for showers. They live in virtual darkness. During the filming, Amtrak gives a 30-day eviction notice. Written by
The soundtrack for the film was provided by DJ Shadow (aka Josh Davis), who is a critically-acclaimed producer and DJ. He is notorious, however, for being very protective of licensing his music for other venues or projects, having declined many other scoring offers in the past. When a friend of Singer's saw the footage assembled to a rough cut, he suggested Shadow for the soundtrack. Singer got hold of a couple of Shadow's albums, and loved the music so much, he began to cut the music into his film without any contact with the DJ. When fellow producer Ben Freedman told him he would need the rights to the music, the duo concocted a scheme whereby they would write a note to him and give it to an attractive female friend who would go backstage after a show and personally hand-deliver it. It worked. Weeks later, the two scheduled a flight to LA to coincide with a last-minute meeting with Shadow and his agent. According to Shadow, he was prepared to turn down the men's offer to use his music. But when they showed him a rough edit of the film with his music that Singer had already cut-in, Shadow was taken aback and completely impressed. He not only let them use existing titles, but even remixed some older tracks intercut with new audio samples recorded by Singer in the tunnels as a special score done for the film. See more »
fascinating film with a remarkable story behind it
It's nigh-impossible not to be moved by Marc Singer's remarkable first film, about a community of homeless people living in a train tunnel beneath Manhattan. What's even more inspiring is how the film got made. Then-20-year-old Singer, who'd never before run a camera, lived underground with his subjects, recruited them as crew, convinced local merchants to donate equipment and even sold his own bed to buy film. His original goal in making the film was to fund its denizens' move out of the tunnel. The result is a fascinating slice of a part of life most of us have never considered. The characters are gritty, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic and always very real. Dark Days takes homelessness out of the realm of sociological phenomenon and into an almost-visceral engagement with these people and their lives. We look in as the characters decorate their scrap-metal shacks with discarded material, earn their livings, emotionally support each other and ultimately struggle with their homes' demise. Though clearly Singer roots for his subjects, he avoids the temptation to pity them; he simply calls it as he sees it - and has lived it. There's even a happy ending.
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