For many, New York City is the city that never sleeps. For director Viktor David, it is the home of the Mole People, a society of people that dwell in the abandoned subway tunnels beneath the city’s busy streets.
“I was always fascinated with this idea of a civilization living beneath the city,” said David, the director of the explosive documentary In Search of the Mole People. “I had heard about the urban myth and decided to check it out.”
The main inspiration for David’s film came from “The Mole People,” a novel by Jennifer Toth, who was a graduate student from Columbia University who examined the mythical underground society in the early 1990s.
Following the 1993 publication of her book about the Mole People and their way of life in the tunnels, Toth’s life was threatened and she was forced to leave New York for her own safety.
Six years later, David and a small crew of filmmakers decided to pick up where Toth’s book left off. The production crew included associate producers Erik Dane and Ken Chery, both of whom appear onscreen as the interviewers/tunnel guides in In Search of the Mole People. The project itself took two years to complete.
“We found a lot of people down [in the tunnels] who wouldn’t want to talk to us and wouldn’t be very friendly because they saw us as a threat,” David said. “They were very territorial. We did go back to follow up on the people that we did interview for the film, but by the time we got back, a lot of people had left their homes and the places where we had spoken with them.”
David himself is no stranger to documentary filmmaking. The Russian-born graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts is the founder of Studio7NY, a non-fiction production studio that produces Real New York, a TV magazine for European television markets. David’s American documentary, In Search of the Mole People, has garnered plenty of acclaim and a Telly Award nomination.
According to David, his investigative documentary was supposed to be a segment for Real New York but, in the end, the project took on a life of its own.
“Real New York looks at the most provocative parts of New York City: topics like male prostitution – the things you don’t see. It’s New York beyond the tourist attractions,” David said with a smile. “We had talked about topics for future episodes and societies living underground was one of those ideas.”
In Search of the Mole People, is a dark documentary with enough suspense and creepy subjects to give the creators of The Blair Witch Project a run for their money.
But unlike Blair Witch, In Search of the Mole People portrays real-life men and women living in the underbelly of New York City – living and, in some cases, dying by their own set of rules.
“To [the Mole People], stealing is a bigger crime than murder,” said Dan Fisher, editor of In Search of the Mole People. “They have a completely different mentality altogether.”
For more information on Viktor David and his film, In Search of the Mole People, visit the Web site at www.molepeoplemovie.com.
Marta Rusek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org