A Film Chronicling the City's Homeless Underground Turns 10

Friday, July 01, 2011

Still from 'Dark Days' Still from "Dark Days" (Courtesy of Oscilloscope)

Much has changed since the documentary "Dark Days" put New York City's gritty underground on the map 10 years ago — drawing a homeless community living beneath Manhattan out of the shadows and onto the silver screen.

Film Director Marc Singer said the tunnels between 50th and 125th streets on the West Side where he filmed the award-winning documentary have completely changed since he filmed. 

"It was completely clean," Singer told WNYC about a recent trip to the site. "The graffiti that was there has been painted over and covered over. There was no sign of life whatsoever. There was no rats — no anything really. I've never seen it so sterile."

The award-winning film will be re-released Friday, July 1, at Cinema Village East to commemorate its 10th anniversary.

During filming, Singer wound up leaving his apartment to live in the tunnels and even enlisted some of the homeless men to build dolly tracks for the camera and set up the lights.

But many of those same men now shy away from watching their life on film, according to Singer. Some have moved across the country, others got married and a few died, he said.

"It's like a chapter that's closed," he said.

Brian, shown in the film showering from water leaking out of a cracked pipe, moved to Alaska with his friend Tommy to try their luck at crab fishing, the filmmaker said.

Henry, one of the older men in the film, who ingeniously "tapped into" the city's electrical grid, and makes cornbread in the film, was one of the men given section 8 housing at the end. He told Singer that a few days after he moved into his home in Harlem he reconnected with his estranged family and soon moved in with his children in Utah.

Singer lost touch with many of the 100 people he met during that time in the tunnels, but said he still lives in the city and will run into people at unexpected times.

Recently, he was walking through Central Park, near one of the tunnel entrances and said he ran into Ronnie, the wise-cracking man in the film who explains how to earn money from found trash. Singer barely recognized him now that he has all new teeth.

Dee, who's shown in the film smoking crack, finally kicked her habit, Singer said, but ended up in prison.

Tito, who's shown taking a sledgehammer to his shanty home at the end of the film, now plays "Dark Days" at his drug rehab clinic upstate. He tells Singer the film shows the kids how far he came and what he’s accomplished since that time.

Courtesy of Oscilloscope
Courtesy of Oscilloscope
Courtesy of Oscilloscope
The same tunnel from the film
Courtesy of Jon Vachon

The same tunnel from the film "Dark Days."

Courtesy of Jon Vachon

The same tunnel from the film "Dark Days."

Courtesy of Jon Vachon

The same tunnel from the film "Dark Days."


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Comments [6]


every ones talking about how the peeps in the film are doing and yes im curious to find out as well but I also wonder about how marc singer is doing and what hes up to now. yes very sad about tommy crazy that they discussed hom on deadliest catch as ive watched that.i wonder how brian is now doing tht tommys gone

Jun. 06 2013 04:41 PM
gizelle from canada

Still one of my fav documentaries.Rico was a trip sad to hear tommy passed away. R.I.p.

Jan. 06 2013 02:50 AM
Donnie from Colorado Springs, Co

I watched "Dark Days several times it was interesting but almost unreal people living in the Subways for years on end and building "Houses" The guy "Tommy" and his friend you seen in the film went to Alaska to become Crab Fishermen, Tommy fished for 2 or 3 years and was taking to it well, it's very hard work and very dangerous, I was watching an episode of "Deadliest Catch" and there's a deckhand talking about knowing people that had died fishing, and the guy says "I really miss my friend "Tommy" he was a great guy , he was from New York" and they showed about a 3 second clip of a guy on the deck of a fishing boat and I almost fell out of my chair it was TOMMY from "Dark Days" I was shocked and sad, but atleast the last few years of his life he lived good, crab fishermen make pretty good money and your out at sea, so I think Tommy liked it and lost his life doing so. RIP TOMMY

Dec. 04 2012 07:02 PM
Don from Colorado Springs, Co

I watched "Dark Days", in Sept of 2012, I had never heard of the documentary but was Intrigued, Talk about another World, And how they got the materials down there to construct their Homes, Tommie had the nicest and the biggest house up on sort of second story level, with a fence and his dogs, which was on the inside very much like a regular apartment, Tommie said he had lived there for several years and built his house and managed to make enough money to keep himself in food and Ciggs ect, I really wonder what the transformation is like that a person experiences moving into the tunnels under ground with the trains and other people, I was surprised to see that he didn't film anyone trying rob or bully the people down there, I'm sure it happens but probably not as much "Topside" like Greg said "nobody in their right mind would come down there messing with you" anyhow the film is something unique, I've watched it several times and was interested to find out what I could about the people he filmed, It was nice to see some of them get an apartment and I hope atleast a couple of them are still doing ok. I thought it was a great Documentary and helped bring attention to the whole mess. They claimed that there was one Guy that had lived in the tunnels for 25 years, WOW.

Oct. 18 2012 08:04 PM
whitegravy 64 from Madison, TN

ive been homeless, but really felt hopeless.....but im reminded daily by videos like "dark days",and my encounters with people still suffering with homelessness, that for the grace of GOD, there go i.....

Oct. 12 2012 01:51 AM
Kent Wilhelm from Staten Island, NY

I remember watching this in college and having a lot of the scenes kind of burned into my memory. The perspective and subject are both so curiously unique.

I'm glad to see it getting another spotlight.

Jul. 01 2011 10:56 AM

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