Directed by Marc Singer
In 1994 Marc Singer was working as a model in New York when he befriended a homeless man, John Murphy, who told him that he wanted to leave the streets and live with the 'tunnel people' underground. Fascinated, Singer decided to investigate, what he assumed was an urban legend, for himself. He found a community of over 100 people living beside an Amtrak line, all contending that the rat-infested blackness offered more safety than the streets. Singer had never picked up a movie camera before, but after three months of visits one of the residents suggested that they should make a film about their lives. Begging and borrowing equipment (which included the city's power supply), he threw himself into the challenge, moving down to the tunnels and recruiting his neighbours as crew.
Shot over two years, the resulting film (winner of three Sundance Festival awards) is both terrifying and heart warming, depicting the disappointments and victories in the daily struggle to survive. Many of the tunnel dwellers are either drug addicts or former addicts and use Singer as a means to confess the difficulties they experience in the world above. Throughout the film, their dignity and humour is a lesson to us all: never seeking sympathy or shirking the consequences of their actions. One man draws the line between helpless and homeless and his assertion rings true as the director visits the various subterranean residences: some with televisions and cookers, some with pets, all with a pride in ownership.
The temptation to play up the human drama unfolding before him may have been great, but Singer's approach is remarkably low key: never devoting too much time to any one individual but always with a respect that extends far beyond traditional notions of artist and subject. This is a superb film that, unlike so many others, will make you realise the value of what you have.