Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Bridge

Stayed up far too late last night watching a documentary called 'The Bridge', and then reading the end of 'Deathly Hallows', discussion of which will be left to another day.

'The Bridge' is the end result of a year of filming, day and night, at San Franciso's Golden Gate Bridge. The film-makers caught 23 of the 24 suicides that took place there in 2004 on the more than 10,000 hours of tape they shot. Very disturbing, and somewhat controversial -- but I'm very glad I watched it. Much food for thought: were the film makers exploiting the last, black moments of the people who chose to end their lives by jumping off the bridge? The executive producer Eric Steel admits to lying about the reason behind his filming in order to get permission to shoot his film around the bridge for a year. Was he glamourizing the deaths to fill his own pockets?

My take is that the film deals sensitively with a very bleak subject. It doesn't offer facile answers, but looks at the lives, families and friends of a half-dozen or so of the people who died that year. And a look at the interviews (included on the disc) of the people who worked on the film shows that they thought deeply about the subject matter they were filming. All of them had access to the suicide prevention line and made use of it.

The question they were left with was why money hasn't been set aside to put up jump-barriers on this bridge -- by all accounts one of the most common sites of public suicide in the US. A person jumps off the Golden Gate an average of once every fifteen days. There have been more than 1500 suicides since the bridge was built. It makes me wonder about the Lions Gate bridge...

I took the picture above when I was in San Francisco in April this year.



Dale said...

I saw a Newsworld piece on the making of this. The film makers were emotionally drained afterwards. They were calling the authorities when they knew someone was jumping, but often too late to prevent the suicide. A year of that would definitely take its toll.

Sounds like this is available as a rental? I definitely want to watch.

kc dyer said...

Hi Dale,

Yeah -- I rented it. It's pretty sad-- but incredibly thought-provoking. I'm glad I watched it.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Richard Seiden, a professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Public Health and the leading researcher on suicide at the bridge, has written that studies reveal “a commonly held attitude that romanticizes suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge in such terms as aesthetically pleasing and beautiful, while regarding a Bay Bridge suicide as tacky.”"

It is too bad that Dr. Seiden spent so much time in the class room and so little time in the practical realities of life.

People jump from the Golden Gate not because of romance - but because of desperation. The choose the Golden Gate Bridge not because it is less tacky but because it has easy access and pedestrian walkways.

No other Bridge in the Bay Area has pedestrian walkways. No access no deaths.

The Directorate of the Golden Gate has managed to keep the public in the dark for over 70 years ! Only now because of the internet can the story get out -

Not only that but the GG Bridge is bankrupt - the real reason that nothing is being done to end the deaths.

Please open your eyes - and do just a little research deaths at the Golden Gate Bridge have now climbed to one a week - yes one a week and over 2,000 to date that we know of...the research and studies are unanimous - if a person is prevented from suicide 98% yes 98% never try again.

I wish the Doctor and the rest of those that spend their time talking about death on the Bridge would do less talking and more action.

While they are talking and philosophizing one person leaps off the Bridge every week.

I am a native of San Francisco and I am horrified at the inability of citizens to understand that this one mile stretch of road is killing one person and devastating their families forever while people like the good doctor write about romance and Christine and Iyakin advance their sophomoric take on death at the Golden Gate.

We are all part of the problem and this is a real tragedy and if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

Just imagine the uproar if someone were to throw a poodle off the Golden Gate once a week ...

kc dyer said...

If this documentry shines a light on the problem, perhaps things will change, pkh. I was astounded to hear how many people have tried to get barriers placed on the bridge. Today I found myself unable to tear my eyes away from the Lions Gate bridge here in Vancouver -- no real barriers in place here, either.


Anonymous said...

I was walking my dog around Stanley Park's Seawall in November 1998 when I witnessed a young man jump from the Lion's Gate Bridge. He hit the water with such tremendous force, the crash stunned people for 200 yards in either direction on the Seawall path.

He disappeared under the water for what seemed like a very long time, then popped up from the depths while floating face down. Everyone assumed he was dead. We were wrong. The water was so cold, and the impact so violent, that apparently his lungs had collapsed before he sank, thus he didn't drown. Suddenly he regained consciousness and began to cry for help.

People witnessing this seemed as angry as they were sympathetic. Here this guy just demonstrated his own contempt for life, and now he wanted others to endanger themselves in a process of saving him. Of the 20 or so people watching from the Seawall, nobody jumped in the water to help him. Instead they screamed at him to "Swim for shore! Swim for shore!"

He made it halfway before he lost consciousness and sank. At that point, four of us jumped in the water, formed a relay, and dragged him in to shore. He regained consciousness again, and was crying hysterically when the Vancouver Police, on scene by then, loaded him into an ambulance. He seemed OK, but I was to learn the following day that he’d died at Vancouver General Hospital 14 hours after his plunge from massive internal injuries.

kc dyer said...

Since viewing 'The Bridge' I now see the Lions Gate with new eyes. It's the same height as the Golden Gate and the risks of jumping are equal. What a terrible thing for him -- and for you.