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homeless but not hopeless

This has to be one of my favourite documentaries of all time. Directed by amateur first-time British director Marc Singer, the documentary is about a group of homeless people living in a section of the New York subway system. These people shunned the dangerous life of living on the streets and decided to descend down into the dark, into the tunnels under the city that (apparently) never sleeps.

It surprised me, actually, how “comfortable” (I use that word loosely) they lived. They had actual homes (built of plywood, yes, but homes nonetheless), electricity, televisions, stoves, pots, pans and even, apparently, at least for a while, running water. I know, of course, that living in ramshackle “houses” underground would never be comfortable, ever, but I certainly wasn’t expecting them to have such “luxuries”.

What I found most attractive was that the documentary never really tries to portray the movie’s subjects as anything other than homeless people. It simply tells things how they are, straight forward (in beautifully grainy black and white film, I might add) and without any sort of preaching or attempts to make the viewer feel pity for the subjects.

Hell, there’s not even any narration in the documentary. I’m repeating myself, yes, but it just tells things how it is and lets the viewer decide how he wants to feel.

The documentary isn’t without “action”, so to speak. There are altercations, there are arguments, there are flashpoints. Those only help drive the gritty reality of the situation even deeper into the viewer. They got to me, alright, and, to borrow the words from another review, they made me feel human. The on-screen confessions got to me even more. Watch it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It made me realize that they’ve all gone through so much, are going through a lot more (at least, at the time of filming), and are still, somehow, surviving. And they even seem happy. Made me realize that I have so much to be thankful for, so much to appreciate, so many reasons to be happy.

And the ending’s probably one of the most . . . cathartic (for lack of a better term) documentary endings I’ve ever seen. It shows that, even amidst an almost hopeless situation, there can still be a happy ending to things.

A happy ending for such a gritty, dark documentary. Hard to believe, but it’s there. And a poignant reminder of how, really, there’s always the chance of a happy ending even when all hope is seemingly lost.

Highly recommended. Go find it somewhere.

More info @ (where else?) Wikipedia.

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Categories: the silver screen
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