Every New York subway rider knows not to pass the bright yellow line on the platform as a train approaches. Sadly, some passengers pass this line in hopes to end it all. Man Under is a personal journey of one MTA motorman’s struggle to get his life back after a woman turns his train into a means for her suicide. A mix of textual facts and narration from the unique perspective of an MTA train operator, Paul Stone’s documentary Man Under is chilling and isolating. This film will give light to how painful it is to be the last person to see a jumper alive and one of the first to see them deceased.
The film arguably is exploitative in how it uses real suicide footage from subway accidents. However, their use is fair in how it tells the perspective of the motorman’s story. The effect feels like a punch to the gut, especially in how you, as the audience, begin to understand the full effect such accidents have on subway drivers. A particularly secluded job, these operators are lonely people in tunnels and on bridges for hours at a time. When something as horrific as a suicide jump occurs, the guilt and pain is a sole experience. Stone effectively places the viewer in the driver’s shoes in a most moving and manipulative way.
Stone explains his inspiration: “Over the past few years, local New York City and national news sources have covered an increasing number of subway-related death and suicide stories as front-page news. The motormen’s union and the MTA have argued publicly over the MTA’s refusal to implement methods that could reduce the number of these deadly incidents. The increase in these deaths are mostly kept secret and my inspiration was to get this story out to the public so the city government and the MTA can work towards a solution.”
Man Under had its world premiere at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival and it has further screened at a number of big festivals since including, Miami Short Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival and DC Shorts Film Festival. Stone’s latest short documentary “Mulberry”, about the gentrification of Little Italy, had its world premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and is currently being edited into a feature length version.