April 19, 2001

Cornell Cinema

Print More

In this age of modern electronics and technophilia, anyone can pick up a hand-held and make a movie. However, this phenomenon increases possibility of an indirect relationship between the numbers of films out there and their level of quality. Thus, the more people who decide to pick up camcorders, the more likely that what they are filming is crap.

This was not the case for first-time British filmmaker Marc Singer when he lugged some camera equipment into the caverns of the Amtrak tunnels in New York to shoot a film about the small shanty population of squatters that lived there. All odds were against him, with little experience and a crew made up of the homeless people on which his documentary was based. Still and all, Singer’s Dark Days is one of most artistic, stimulating, and important modern documentaries that I have had the pleasure of viewing.

Daze: Why did you decide to make a film about the people living in the tunnel?

Singer: I wanted to make the film because I wanted to get them out of the tunnel. At the same time, they [the people living in the tunnel] would be the entire film crew and that way they’d help themselves get out.

D: Why did you choose to shoot in black and white?

Singer: A friend of mine asked, “Well, what are you gonna shoot on?” And I said, “I have no idea.” And he said, “Well, if you shoot on color and you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to fuck it all up. It’s gonna come out green, or it’s going to come out red.” And I said, “Ahhh.” He said, “If you shoot black and white, you can still fuck it up, but it will still look pretty cool.” So we shot in black and white. In hindsight, it was fantastic. It really worked because it really, I mean the tunnels were black and white.

D: The filmmaker’s presence is never alluded to in the film. Why?

Singer: It wasn’t a film about me. I didn’t say I’m going to make a film about myself filming. I hate when some people do that. I mean, some people do it quite well and get away with it. But, it’s not about you, it’s about who you’re filming.