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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
Singer was permitted to use a 16mm Bolex on loan from a camera house in New York without up-to-date payments. He was given left-over film stock on a "pay-later" basis from Kodak and other resources. The lab in New York that processed his negatives and prints also granted him this favor. He began editing on a flatbed, before he was granted the use of an avid at practically no charge from a friend of a friend. He also had complete and total creative control over the project and its final cut, also a rarity. See more »
I just came across this gem of a movie on cable last night. I'm not a social activist and I don't particularly have a soft spot in my heart for the homeless. I lived in San Francisco for a while and I got pan handled by at least 20 people a day walking back and forth to the train...usually much more then 20 people , so that made disillusioned pretty quickly. But watching this movie did exactly what Marc Singer set out to do...made me sympathetic to these individuals in the film regardless of my preconceptions about the homeless in the United States. Yes, most of the people in this film certainly didn't make the right decisions in life, some were openly smoking crack on camera and most definitely were not educated. But it made me realize that we all make some mistakes and it is possible for some of those mistakes to spiral into their situations.
The "characters" in the film were all much more articulate then I would have expected from some homeless people. They all told their individual stories but none of them tried to make any excuses for things they've done in the past to get them where they were which is what I think ultimately made me feel sympathetic to them.
But it was the style of this film that really sucked me in before the characters and subject matter did. It was beautifully shot on B&W film which was impressive considering the lighting issues inside the tunnel. The soundtrack from DJ Shadow was also excellent and really added to the mood of this film. Overall, a great doc. I recommend it to everyone.
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