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homesick blues


Ex-fashion model MARC SINGER went underground in New York City to make Dark Days,

a documentary about homeless people. Words: Catherine Bromley

ou‘re young. from an afflttent London

backgrottnd and good-looking to the extent

that you‘ve just finished a six month stint working as a catalogue fashion model. Oh yeah. and you‘ve just moved to the epicentre of cool. New York City. which is good timing considering you're about to turn 2| and the future looks peachy. So where do you spend this milestone birthday'.’ At the top of the limpire State Building. sttrveying the city you’re abottt to make home'.’ How about several levels below ground. deep in the bowels of the NYC subway tunnels surrounded by rats and wandering crack addicts?

It may seem slightly odd to us. but this is exactly how UK emigre Marc Singer decided to spend his 21st birthday and the two years that followed it. His film. Dark Days. documents the lifestyle he encountered in this subterranean city. and while you might think this was a determined

piece of investigative journalism. ‘I’d made a lot Of rea||y good friends and I didn’t like seeing “"P‘." P"CkC‘-‘~ them in the tunnel.’

Singer says otherwise.

‘In the beginning I never meant to tnake a film.’ says the young director who‘s now 27 and bringing his film to Edinburgh this month. ‘I never wanted to become a filmmaker. I never had any dreams of this. Before this. I‘d never even picked tip a camera. I didn’t go underground to do that. l was just in there helping out. And after about three months of being there. I'd made sotne really good friends and I realised that the people I was meeting were nothing

like I’d thought they were beforehand. like my idea of

what a homeless person would be like. I realised these people had never been portrayed as they really are. At the same time. I‘d made a lot of really good friends and I didn‘t like seeing them in the tunnel.’

26 THE LIST 1—15 Mar 2001

r elps less “2.. selves

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Prior to the release of Dark Days -— which Singer made with the tunnel dwellers. who had no previous experience of filmmaking the subject of the homeless living in subterranean New York had been extensively covered by journalists. tnost notably by Jennifer Toth in her ll)‘)3 expose 'Mole l’eople‘. While Singer discredits Toth's somewhat sensationalist account of the inhabitants eating rats and raising children underground. the journalist and the director shared the same goal. namely that of re— housing the tunnel's homeless overground. ‘We thought we could make this film. sell it and the money would get everyone out of the tunnel‘. he says. This goal has been realised. albeit not with money tnade from the film. As Singer explains. ‘If we‘d have been waiting for that fuck well. we would have been waiting for years. They [the ftlmmaker/subjects| all have a good percentage in it. though. so if it does make money. they'll make money.‘

Royalties could well start rolling in. though. as the film has already. and quite rightly. won numerous awards at last year“s Sundance Festival and most recently has been honoured with the Los Angeles Film (‘ritics Award for Best Documentary (Dark Days was also the talk of last August‘s lidinburgh International Film Festival). And the film‘s soundtrack will help line the filmmakers‘

compiled as it is by legendary trip hop artist DJ Shadow.

And in a funny. simple twist of fate. apt because the whole project has been a fluke start to finish. Singer was turned on to Shadow (whom he‘d never heard of before) by none more likely than The Cult‘s rock poser lan Astbury. He'd never heard of Astbury either. but then he had been living underground for a few years so we‘ll let that one go.

Dark Days opens Fri 9 Mar. See review, page 28. Marc Singer introduces a charity screening of his film in aid of The Big Issue Foundation at the Cameo, Edinburgh, Thu 8 Mar.

Rough cuts Lights. camera. action .

.1 MINUlt WONDERS. {if} utmcizrmtixo new, scheme aimed at promoting litlj‘, \itleo production in Scotland. is latintflioti on H March in Glasgow. Until September .1 new track supplied by Glasgow's; Stinm Ret‘nrtls; Will ltt‘ postorl on \N’ontleis' website (www.4minute wonderscom) Wtinniilm Spike .Jnnxo't; slintiltl pitch on line to {l|l(?(‘,l a ‘.'Itl(?() to accompany lltt‘ track. l-zittli monthly \‘JlllltOl ‘.V|ll gut 8‘5) (ltltl and a four weeks; to not then (:ziinoigi whom lllt?” mouth is. The ‘.'Vlllll|llt) films Will be shown on l(?l(}VlE3lt)ll (llltl Ill (Illl(}lllili;, HONG KONG CINEMA gets a well-deserved critical once-over with a course running at Glasgow’s GFT 10 March-7 April taking in big names Wong Kar- Wai, Fruit Chan and John Woo. The GFT also explores women's role in British film on International Women’s Day (8 March) with a discussion lead by Scottish documentarist Kay Mander to accompany a retrospective of her films from the 405. And on 13 March actor- director Madhur Jaffrey comes to the GFT to talk about her superbly-titled new film, Chutney Popcorn. Last and not least, Glasgow's own do-it- herself filmmaker May Miles Thomas crowns the GFT's Glasgow Connections series on 11 March with her multiple Scottish BAFTA-winning digital film, One Life Stand.

THAT JUST LEAVES ltnit: to mention Stirling macRobert 's prevmw SCreening on 9 March of the Japanese shocker Audition (pictured).