Down In Shadowland (2016)

Written/Directed/Filmed/Edited by Tom DiCillo

Produced by 10 Below Films

Music Supervised by Sue Jacobs

Music by Brian Eno, Trentemoeller, Bonobo, Xerxes, Architect, Hol Bauman and Tom DiCillo

Woodstock Film Festival, Official Competition

Maysles Film Center, IFC

From my first steps down into the NYC subway I was fascinated by the entire world that lay beneath the streets of the city.



In 2009 I began carrying my video camera on the trains every day, trying to capture some of the mysterious, emotional and deeply moving moments I was seeing.

I shot for over 7 years. The more I shot, the more this shadowy realm of the underground became a strange mirror of the world above ground. In this most public of public spaces people seemed unaware they were revealing glimpses of their most private selves.

The entire film was shot on a camera just slightly larger than a pack of cigarettes. Most people were aware I was filming them. I did not try to hide the camera but its size helped make it less conspicuous. Nonetheless, the moments I sought were agonizingly elusive. For every ten that appeared before me I was lucky if I captured one.

I rode in between the cars of rocketing express trains, holding on with one hand and leaning out to aim the camera along the cars. Any time someone looked at me with anger or discomfort I stopped filming. I was pulled off the train 3 times by the police. One cop in plain clothes wrote my name and address on his palm with a big Sharpie.

But, after two decades in the independent film business it was exhiliarating to make this film with just me and the camera. No producers. No money people. No notes and no test screenings. My only obligation was to present a film as close as possible to what my eyes were seeing.

The film was picked up for distribution in 2017 by Factory 25.

It is now showing on Amazon.

“Tom DiCillo has made an extraordinary film that is simultaneously meditative and exhilarating, surreal, and often heartbreakingly beautiful, Down In Shadowland is a masterpiece of keenly observed human experience that transforms the subway underground into something deeply mysterious and mystical.”
-Steve Buscemi

“If the whole of humanity were marched before our eyes, it might resemble Tom DiCillo’s new film, Down In Shadowland, a descent into the subterranean universe of the iconic New York City subway.”
– Barbara Pokras, Woodstock Film Festival

“Tom DiCillo’s latest film, DOWN IN SHADOWLAND, was made over the course of 7 years. He made the film entirely by himself, motivated by a fascination with the secret lives of people on the subway that began when he first moved to NYC in the mid ‘70’s. What resulted is a hauntingly beautiful hybrid of the documentary form. Although every frame in the film is real, the film refuses to settle into the rational world of the traditional documentary. Instead, DiCillo's roving yet unobtrusive camera mingles with the denizens of this subterranean microcosm, working its way through a dense network of human emotion to achieve a truth that becomes more elusive and poetic.”
-Wayne Byrne, Film Ireland




14 responses to “Down In Shadowland (2016)”

  1. Just saw La Strada between your recommended films. Watching La Strada is my earliest memory.

  2. Tom says:

    Well, that is a great memory, Lucia. La Strada was the most influential film I had seen before I became a filmmaker. It has so many great themes and ideas in it. It feels both intimately human and larger than life.

    This is why I always return to Fellini for inspiration.

  3. Gloria Kapilow Mirsky says:

    I absolutely loved seeing Down in Shadowland at the Woodstock Festival. I want to take my film maker friends to see it and I also want to see it again. Do you know where it will be shown again, I live in the Woodstock area? Also is your documentary about Jim Morrison available to buy, my sister knew Jim and I would like to send her a copy.
    Thank you again for your beautiful film!

  4. Tom says:

    Hello Gloria,
    Thanks very much for your comment. I enjoyed being at the Woodstock Film Festival with Down In Shadowland. Hearing reactions from the audience was incredibly rewarding. I’m working on finding a place for the film in the market. Nothing is definite at the moment but I will let you know when things develop.

    And yes, When You’re Strange is available to buy at a number of online places. Here is the link at Amazon. Since your sister knew Jim I think she would appreciate the way the film tries to present him as truthfully and humanly as possible.

  5. Salli Stevenson says:

    Hi Tom,

    Just saw the Shadowland clip. I love it. This is truly poetic work. I would love to see the whole documentary. Is it available to buy – DVD?

  6. Tom says:

    Hey Salli, great as always to hear from you. I’m glad you liked the Shadowland clip. I had a great time working on it. In fact, I’m still working on it. It was in the Doc competition at Woodstock and was very well received. First time I’d screened it in front of an audience. Now, I’m adding some new stuff I shot in the last month and will be locking it.
    I’m still trying to determine the best venue for the film. Right now I’m going to keep going to festivals with it. I’m still looking for a distributor so there are no DVD’s to buy at the moment. But, I will keep you posted.
    I hope all is well.

  7. Andy says:

    Hi Tom

    Lover of your work and very anxious to see this. My question is – when are we most likely to be able to in the UK? Good luck with the film. All the best


  8. Tom says:

    Hey Andy,
    Thanks for the support and the comment. At the moment, Down In Shadowland is still in the early stages of screening. I’m trying to show it at some more festivals, especially some in the UK. Keep looking here for updated info. As soon as I have any more specific info I will let you know.

  9. Elaine says:

    I’d love to either have a way to watch it via Youtube or get a DVD too, Tom. Let us know if you ever change your mind on the venues 🙂

  10. Erik says:

    Man, this sounds cool. Can’t wait to see it in Seattle.

  11. Andy Dickenson says:

    Hi Tom. Can’t believe this was 18 months ago! Any news? How about the LFF this October? Or a Blu release? Still as anxious o see this as ever. A

  12. Andy Dickenson says:

    Any sign of a DVD/Blu release yet, Tom? Andy

  13. Tom says:

    Hey Andy,
    No yet. But the film is beginning to sniff around potential US theatrical screenings in NYC. There will be a streaming release in the next few months. But, like you, I’d really like to see the film available on Blu-ray. It really looks beautiful. Here’s a nice quote from Steve Buscemi on the film:

    “Tom DiCillo has made an extraordinary film that is simultaneously meditative and exhilarating, surreal, and often heartbreakingly beautiful, Down In Shadowland is a masterpiece of keenly observed human experience that transforms the subway underground into something deeply mysterious and mystical.” Steve Buscemi

    Keep checking in for updates, Andy. Thanks very much for the interest and support.

  14. Andy Dickenson says:

    Thanks Tom. Happy Christmas!

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician