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The Bridge: A Movie about Golden Gate Bridge Jumpers

 
 
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 12:26 am
Today I ran into a very sad video, and though it's not graphic if you are sensitive you may not want to continue any further.



I wondered why someone had a camera trained on this man, capturing his moment of suicide and noticed that it was footage from a documentary called The Bridge.

IMDB wrote:
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.


Wanting to find out more I researched it a bit and found that it was inspired by an article in the New Yorker:

Jumpers The fatal grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Quote:
Every two weeks, on average, someone jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge. It is the world’s leading suicide location. In the eighties, workers at a local lumberyard formed “the Golden Gate Leapers Association”"a sports pool in which bets were placed on which day of the week someone would jump. At least twelve hundred people have been seen jumping or have been found in the water since the bridge opened, in 1937.


The article is a powerful read itself, and I recommend it. I'm not sure what I think about the film as I haven't seen it myself and wonder if it's more exploitative than exploratory but I can't deny that I want to know more. I want to know how they saved anyone, what these stories are. I'll post more as I find it.

What do you think of this project and this article?
 
dlowan
 
  2  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 12:48 am
@Robert Gentel,
I think it well meant and likely fascinating...however, I am 99.99% sure it will cause a spike in suicide numbers wherever it is shown, as well-meaning publicity about suicide does.

It's quite spectacular at times, especially if it focuses on young people.....the kids triggered by such stuff then often lead to clusters in their schools and amongst their extended social group.

That's why anti-suicide programs and education are very problematic.

In Oz, suicides are hardly reported at all for this reason, especially when they involve young people.

I guess what is moot is whether in the long term such documentaries allow people to be better at seeing signs of real distress amongst those in their circle, and encourage distressed folk to seek support.

Not that I think suicide always a bad choice...but it is very sad to see kids do it, or people who just need some assistance.

I would be very interested to see the program, though, and I will look at the links you have provided.

Edit.

Goddamn. I hadn't noticed that was on You Tube, which is a young person's Mecca.

I think that is not something that should be on such a venue, and that it is quite dangerous to have it there.





Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 01:17 am
@Robert Gentel,


First three haunting minutes from 'The Bridge' documentary


Girl pulled to safety


Finally someone doing something!

A guy jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge right before us. The Coast Guard picks up the Survivor.


John Kevin Hines of the San Francisco Mental Health Board speaks about his experience jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge and the work he is doing now to prevent suicides and mental disorders on Under San Francisco.


This one is from Niagara, which is reportedly another hotspot. There's a lot more to the story in the youtube description.


The two questions that came to mind most often for me is:

1) Why aren't more people helping? Why are some walking by like there's nothing wrong with a person climbing over the rail? Why are some laughing? Why did the film maker decide to film the suicides from a distance, spending every day doing so for a year, instead of on the bridge stopping them?

2) Why the hell aren't there better suicide barriers on this bridge?
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 01:26 am
@Robert Gentel,
Still reading the New Yorker article. This seems to be why.

Quote:
There is a fatal grandeur to the place. Like Paul Alarab, who lived and worked in the East Bay, several people have crossed the Bay Bridge to jump from the Golden Gate; there is no record of anyone traversing the Golden Gate to leap from its unlovely sister bridge. 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.”

Unlike the Bay Bridge"or most bridges, for that matter"the Golden Gate has a footpath adjacent to a low exterior railing. “Jumping from the bridge is seen as sure, quick, clean, and available"which is the most potent factor,” Dr. Jerome Motto, a local psychiatrist and suicide expert, says. “It’s like having a loaded gun on your kitchen table.”

Almost everyone in the Bay Area knows someone who has jumped, and it is perhaps not surprising that the most common fear among San Franciscans is gephyrophobia, the fear of crossing bridges. Yet the locals take a peculiar pride in the bridge’s notoriety. “What makes the bridge so popular,” Gladys Hansen, the city’s unofficial historian, says, citing the ten million tourists who visit the bridge each year, “is that it’s a monument, a monument to death.” In 1993, a man named Steve Page threw his three-year-old daughter, Kellie, over the side of the bridge and followed her down; even after this widely publicized atrocity, an Examiner poll that year found that fifty-four per cent of the respondents opposed building a suicide barrier.


That's sad.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  3  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 01:39 am
@dlowan,
The New Yorker article (still reading it) covered the media's relationship with it a bit:

Quote:
In 1995, as No. 1,000 approached, the frenzy was even greater. A local disk jockey went so far as to promise a case of Snapple to the family of the victim. That June, trying to stop the countdown fever, the California Highway Patrol halted its official count at 997. In early July, Eric Atkinson, age twenty-five, became the unofficial thousandth; he was seen jumping, but his body was never found.

Ken Holmes, the Marin County coroner, told me, “When the number got to around eight hundred and fifty, we went to the local papers and said, ‘You’ve got to stop reporting numbers.’ ” Within the last decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Association of Suicidology have also issued guidelines urging the media to downplay the suicides. The Bay Area media now usually report bridge jumps only if they involve a celebrity or tie up traffic. “We weaned them,” Holmes said. But, he added, “the lack of publicity hasn’t reduced the number of suicides at all.”
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 02:01 am
@Robert Gentel,
I have actually flagged concerns with Youtube re this.

It isn't simply about triggering people to jump off that bridge.

Suicide publicity can trigger suicides anywhere.

In my opinion having that video, or the others posted here, on Youtube is utterly irresponsible.





0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 05:09 am
@Robert Gentel,
I remember reading that NY'er article... it made quite an impression on me.

I think it was discussed here at the time because I remember dlowan saying similar things (she's consistent).

Won't watch the video.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 05:22 am
IMHO, most photojournalism is irresponsible. The desire for the spectacular catch on film is one of the hot buttons of photojournalists.

My rental car once once stalled on the Oakland Bridge, which has an even higher drop. I got out and was standing behind an abutment so I wouldnt get hit by the speeding traffic. While I stood there waiting for help,There were a few moments of misunderstanding by some people who thought I was a jumper (And a few others who, when passing , yelled "jump").
Sometimes the bridges, smacked in fog, have an erie "above the clouds" feel and I can see a sort of ethereal attraction for jumpers who use the BAy bridges as personal launch points.

I dont think , unless I were highly trained, I would try to jump in and muscle a jumper away. They might just be strong enough to overpower me and take me with em, and I really dont see anything noble in trying to stop a suicide, all I see is a possibility of the suicider claiming another unwilling vic.
0 Replies
 
Bella Dea
 
  2  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 10:21 am
For some people, someone trying to stop them might be enough to save them. For others, it won't matter and they'll jump anyway. And for probably the vast majority, even if you do save them from jumping, they will just do it another way or try again.

This is terribly sad.

However, I don't see a problem with this documentary in the respect of it being a catalyst for suicides. I say this because you can google suicide on the internet and find more sites than I care to think about on how and when and if you should commit suicide.

I don't think that this video would push someone to commit suicide that was already going to do it. People who are serious about it will do it regardless. I think sites out there that actually push people to do it are far more dangerous than a documentary.

That said, I do think this documentary is sick in that these people should have been over there to prevent these jumpers rather than watch them jump. Even if you can't save someone, I think it's right for you to at least try. And instead of spending a whole year wasting all those lives, they should have been fighting to erect a guard rail to prevent jumpers.

boomerang
 
  3  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 10:46 am
There is something essentially voyeristic of any photojournalism or documentary and while I certainly understand the compulsion to not photograph it or to step in and try to change the situation or to simply look away, I don't think any of those options are the right answer.

I think a powerful image can create changes in thoughts and actions more effectively than words.

Seeing this fim might convince the people in San Francisco who don't want a barrier on the bridge that a barrier might be a good idea.
Bella Dea
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 10:54 am
@boomerang,
Quote:
Seeing this fim might convince the people in San Francisco who don't want a barrier on the bridge that a barrier might be a good idea


Exactly.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 10:58 am
@Bella Dea,
Bella Dea wrote:
For some people, someone trying to stop them might be enough to save them.


The article ended with one of the suicide notes saying:

"I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.”

He jumped.
Rockhead
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 11:14 am
@Robert Gentel,
The first time I went to San Francisco, I spent half a day at the bridge. There is a definite Majesty and mystique to it. I think I understand why folks would choose it as a launching pad.

It is a final moment of beauty before the plunge.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 11:17 am
@Robert Gentel,
RG, Many lifetimes ago when I first lived in Chicago in the mid-fifties, I frequented a restaurant, because it was hearty and cheap. I got to know the waitress there, and talked with her often. However, when I went to the same restaurant for a meal, the workers told me that the waitress committed suicide.

My heart sank.

My life wasn't exactly in the best of times, because I was struggling only to live, and made minimum wage at McClurg's wholesale company as a biller.

Fast forward to now: When I look back on my life with all the struggles and tribulations, I find that my life turned out pretty good. I married a wonderful, intelligent woman, have two great sons, and in retirement have enjoyed the fruits of my labor.

I can look back and really say "life has been good."

It's sad to see young people commit suicide, because they take an action that can't be reversed to change their abysmal life for the better.

0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  2  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 03:46 pm
@boomerang,
Quote:
Seeing this fim might convince the people in San Francisco who don't want a barrier on the bridge that a barrier might be a good idea.


Yeah....I thought about that in bed last night.

Hopefully so.

I was a bit haunted last night by stuff in that article, like people yelling "jump!" to folk....and the highway patrol guy who'd been saving people effectively for years, yet only realised after he took some course or something that they were "real people", not career nuts.

cicerone imposter
 
  2  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 05:27 pm
@dlowan,
I disagree; those people will find other ways to committ suicide. That they choose the Golden Gate Bridge is unfortunate, but it's not going to stop suicides.
ossobuco
 
  2  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 05:54 pm
@cicerone imposter,
CI, there have been many articles about all this, and I've probably read most of them. There is apparently some near magnetic thing about the Golden Gate and people don't all so much suicide in some alternate way, according to the studies. No links, but riffling through the Chronicle on this subject should bring up a lot.

At the same time I say this, I'm no fan of changing the bridge. I can see increasing intervention.

My famous to me 101 year old aunt's (well, now she'd be older) brother worked on the bridge building. People pick a dramatic icon.

I can imagine netting under (many designs for) but I'm not enthusiastic about that either. I'm slightly more for that than changing the experience of driving or walking across the bridge for, what, millions, or at least many thousands.


cicerone imposter
 
  2  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 07:30 pm
@ossobuco,
osso, You're right; my research on Google confirmed it. But here's an interesting entry on Wiki on the bridge and cost to make the barriers.
Quote:

Various methods have been proposed and implemented to reduce the number of suicides. The bridge is fitted with suicide hotline telephones, and staff patrol the bridge in carts, looking for people who appear to be planning to jump. The bridge is now closed to pedestrians at night. Cyclists are still permitted across at night, but must be buzzed in and out through the remotely controlled security gates.[44] Attempts to introduce a suicide barrier have been thwarted by engineering difficulties, high costs, and public opposition. The estimated cost of a barrier is between $40 and $50 million dollars [45] One recurring proposal is to build a barrier to replace or augment the low railing, a component of the bridge's original architectural design. New barriers have eliminated suicides at other landmarks around the world, but were opposed for the Golden Gate Bridge for reasons of cost, aesthetics, and safety (the load from a poorly-designed barrier could significantly affect the bridge's structural integrity during a strong windstorm).
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 07:59 pm
@cicerone imposter,
Here's a video about the different barrier proposals:
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2008 08:06 pm
@Robert Gentel,
And here's a (rather dumb) guy expressing his opposition to the barrier.

0 Replies
 
 

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