Dark Days is a documentary released in 2000 created by Marc Singer. The film chronicles the lives of people living in an abandon section of the New York subway system. Singer, himself, was one of the people living in the subway system and after a few months decided to create this documentary to share the stories of the individuals to financially help them and to help educate others.
It sheds light on the issues faced by homeless people which the inability to afford basic needs like food and shelter and society’s views towards homeless people. Each person tells their “story” and follows their daily lives off getting food, fixing their home, doing daily things like showering and making money.The individuals all built their own houses out of scraps of things they found. . They take pride in their homes and some constantly worked to improve them. They used running water from a pipe in the subway system and tapped into the electricity of the city.
A running theme in the documentary is community. The director was apart of the community and decided to create this film with the only money he had to help them. Most of the individuals are also constantly helping each other whether it be through talking to one another about their problems or by opening their home and allowing for people to stay with them.
The documentary is effective in promoting social change through the film’s stylistic choice of music, film type and through the individuals themselves.
Music by DJ Shadow was used in the film. It along with the film type helped to create each scene but also helped the film flow. Last.FM describes DJ Shadow’s music as instrumental hip-hop, it blends samples without any vocals. The music was never distracting and only added more to the documentary and was a great addition because the setting is from an urban environment-a New York subway.
A link for one of the film’s featured songs is available here. It can also be heard in the background for the link of the first 10 minutes of the documentary.
The film was shot entirely in a grainy black and white which helped to create the mood of the film but also to show life through the eyes of the people who inhabited the underground. The underground of the subway system were almost pitch black so the people who lived down there hardly saw light except for the passing trains and the few lights they had. One character mentioned how even the daytime was dark. . The choice of film was not a stylistic choice of Singer’s; however it only heightened the emotion. (According to IMDB.com friend of Singer’s recommended he used black and white because if he used color there was a chance that it would come out green or red.)
The stories of the individuals of themselves were heartbreaking and honest, and the characters themselves were all people who you grew to appreciate and care for. Stories of running away from home to having a drug addiction are shared with viewers. If they made mistakes they admitted to their faults. Through it though they wanted help of others but they always wanted to help themselves. According to IMDB.com, individuals were also the film “crew” and learned to use the film equipment. Even though some had drug problems, they demonstrated a sense of motivation to help themselves and move out of the subway system
The film never placed the “blame” on anyone and although it was depressing it still had humor and left you with a sense of hope. It makes the viewer angry about the conditions people live in but also motivates one to want to create a change to things. The ending showed a light to the darker days.