Filmmakers use hidden cameras to capture the various suicide attempts at the Golden Gate Bridge - the world's most popular suicide destination. Interviews with the victims' loved ones describe their lives and mental health.
People suffer largely unnoticed while the rest of the world goes about its business. This is a documentary exploration of the mythic beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge, the most popular suicide destination in the world, and those drawn by its call. Steel and his crew filmed the bridge during daylight hours from two separate locations for all of 2004, recording most of the two dozen deaths in that year (and preventing several others). They also taped interviews with friends, families and witnesses, who recount in sorrowful detail stories of struggles with depression, substance abuse and mental illness. Raises questions about suicide, mental illness and civic responsibility as well as the filmmaker's relationship to his fraught and complicated material.Written by
The film was inspired by an article entitled "Jumpers," written by Tad Friend appearing in The New Yorker magazine in 2003. See more »
Caroline Pressley - Gene's Friend, South San Francisco, CA:
I don't know why people kill themselves. And yet, it's a small step to empathize... to say... well, because I think we all experience moments of despair. That, ah, it would be so much easier not to do this anymore. But for most of us, the sun comes out, and then "Oh well, Tomorrow is another day". Why he chose the Bridge? I don't know. Maybe there was a certain amount of release from pain, by pain. Maybe he just wanted to fly one time.
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Interesting for many reasons but if the shocking footage was removed then there would be very little left of substance and structure
In 2004 director Eric Steel set up cameras to cover the pedestrian side of the Golden Gate Bridge. During this year he capture many people walking along the bridge, tourists, people going to work, people taking in the scenery and some people who had come to commit suicide by jumping from the bridge. His film explores the backgrounds and motivations to the people that we see jump to their deaths.
There is a real question within this film and it is one that is only really touched on by one person (not Steel himself I note) and that is the distance provided by the camera as we observe but do not stop the deaths we see. The film doesn't let you build to facing this as the opening credits are a man hopping up onto the barrier and then jumping to his death; it is here where you decide if you want to watch the rest because it is a strange experience where I at once felt dirty but also distant. I'm not suggesting Steel did nothing to prevent people he saw acting suspiciously from jumping but it is hard to have so much footage of the last guy with the long hair in particular and then follow him to the water and death.
The act of looking at it through a camera is weirdly distancing and I felt wrong watching these things while sitting in my warm front room with a reasonably good life, physical and mental health. This distance remained for me in the film itself as I was strangely emotionally distant from the jumpers and their families. The lack of message and structure doesn't help this and I suppose it is a danger of making the film the way he did because he was very much at the "mercy" of what happens as to how his film turned out. If we had had a year of spoilt rich kids then of course the musings would have been very different. This is also a strength though because the film does provide food for thought in the discussions with the families and friends; I found myself thinking about the topic and this is really what you need to be doing because in terms of substance and message the film does rather sit back and let the viewers do what they want.
This is a real shame because it means the most arresting images and footage are the jumpers themselves and it is hard to avoid watching but also not wanting to at the same time. I don't want to accuse of it of not backing up this footage with substance but I'm afraid that is where I am going with this. The documentary doesn't really explore the themes so much as the individuals and the film is rather repetitive. The lack of emotion drawn from me didn't help me get involved in the people and the things that made me engaged seemed to be mostly happening in my head rather than on the screen.
Overall then this is certainly an interesting film but this interest comes mostly from the viewer rather than the film. The suicides are shocking but yet hypnotic and also morally challenging as you sit there as part of a paying audience watching people die from a distance of space and time. The film is nowhere near good or insightful enough to totally justify the use of this footage and, while I think the footage is more than enough to grab viewers' attention, it is not that great a documentary if you were to watch it with these scenes removed and that for me says quite a lot about the film.
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