November 27th, 2016 by Mr. C
OFF THE RAILS : Documentary
Director: Adam Irving
Producer: Adam Irving, Glen Zipper
Production Company: Gemini Pictures, Zipper Brothers Film
Runtime: 87 min
Off the Rails documentary continues the New York State of complicated minds with a fascinating & compelling story of a one of a kind character in a one of a kind City. This unbelievable but true story of Darius McCollum, a man/child with Asperger’s syndrome who has a strong obsession with the New York City transit system such that his krptonite is impersonating NYC bus drivers and subway conductors to drive their routes. Fortunately, Darius’ intention is not to cause harm but instead his fascination with trains and buses have him wanting to desperately be a part of MTA and to perform the job duties of getting passengers to their destination safely. Too bad NYPD and the New York Transit authority do not agree with his thinking which ultimately landed McCollum in jail over 30 times and 23 years & still counting of hard times at Rikers Island! Yes, Rikers Island! One of the most if not THE MOST corrupt and dangerous penitentiaries in the U.S.
I highly recommend watching this documentary for the sheer ‘off the meat rack‘ behavior of the subject. I still couldn’t wrap my head around this story. It would seem this would make a great case study for psychologists, social workers, lawyers, and our justice system in general. Here you have a very bright and well spoken for individual in Darius McCollum but since a teenager, he has found himself defying authority in what basically comes down to wanting to become a part of the MTA to become a train conductor or bus operator. We will agree that Darius did not approach this the right way from the very beginning which hampered the whole becoming one of them down the drain. What is strange is that Mccollum continues to hijack trains & buses but still his intent was just to perform the job duties of the conductor in a safe manner which he has done on each occassion of hijacking (sounds funny but not funny?!). That is a terrible conflict of interest isn’t it?! But still everytime Darius gets arrested & spends a decent amount of time in Rikers with no mental help,no rehab,no recognition that there is a real problem underneath all these layers.
It was really frustrating for me as viewer at times because I was teetering back and forth siding with Darius and then the authorities. On one hand, we have a subject that has been arrested over 30 times trespassing and impersonating the MTA. On the other hand, the subject is willing to commit these crimes over and over again (with no harm intended and property damage ever) which lands him in the most corrupt & heinous jails but that does not phase or scare Darius whatsoever. Spending enormous amounts of time at Rikers Island was not even a deterrent. His love for the train system would push him back into the fray of the tracks even if it meant spending most of his life in jail. This dichotomy of behaviour I just couldn’t comprehend. The mind and chemical imbalance of one’s brain is a complex thing. There are more than a few circuits missing here. Perhaps I just don’t understand Aspergers disease and our justice system surely has no clue in how to deal with this either. Who is really the victim here? Darius’ addiction could of been drinking, sex, or drugs and he would have received more help if he had one of those diseases. Despite the lack of answers, I whole heartedly recommend watching Off The Rails! The documentary provoked many of my senses. At times it made me feel sympathetic, frustrated, & aggravated. It also made me smile, laugh & made me feel that there was hope for the individual & society. It also took me to a very dark area of doom & gloom.
All in all, the case study & story of Darius McCollum was very captivating! I never knew that such an individual can be so grandiose, so narcissistic requiring so much attention yet that same person seemed so gentle, so naive, and passionate despite serving the amount of hard time in prison! It was just so confusing but yet so enthralling! One thing is for sure, the man loves his trains and his mom! Go see OFF THE RAILS and maybe you can solve the puzzle! Be very careful though, watching this might make you feel like you’ve touched the 3rd rail! It will leave a few skidmarks on your mind!
Off The Rails is currently screening at The Metrograph on Ludlow Street in downtown NYC.