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 world of the reality above ground. In this most populous of public of 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 up 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.”
“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
Independent Filmmaker & Musician
Just saw La Strada between your recommended films. Watching La Strada is my earliest memory.
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.
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!
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. http://www.amazon.com/When-Youre-Strange-About-Doors/dp/B003H5WF3U. Since your sister knew Jim I think she would appreciate the way the film tries to present him as truthfully and humanly as possible.
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?
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.
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
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.
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 🙂
Man, this sounds cool. Can’t wait to see it in Seattle.
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
Any sign of a DVD/Blu release yet, Tom? 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.
Thanks Tom. Happy Christmas!