THE POPCORN REEL EDITOR'S DESK - a weekly word about the movies                      

Monday, September 25, 2006


It won't be released in North America until just over a month from the above date of this latest dispatch from the desk, but few films have impacted me as deeply in 2006 as Eric Steel's "The Bridge", a painful, distressing documentary about people who commit suicide, choosing one of the world's grandest man-made wonders as the venue of choice from which to perform their last act in their life. 

The Golden Gate Bridge, located in San Francisco is the place where 24 people in 2004 jumped to their deaths into the San Francisco Bay, and several of these deaths are caught on camera by cinematographer Peter McCandless and director Steel.  The documentary seems to controversially straddle the line between being a chronicler of death and a voyeur of it, ala the infamous late 1960's Queens, New York murder of Kitty Genovese.  (At least 50 neighbors in an apartment complex were said to have watched from their homes as Ms. Genovese screamed her last breaths for help as she was being raped and stabbed to death in the courtyard of the apartment complex.)  While the resolution of that particular issue about Mr. Steel's challenging work will be left for the viewer to ponder, those who brave this probing look at depression should also take note of the sincerity and earnestness of Mr. Steel's exploration of a subject that is as deeply taboo in American society and in some religions as it is in some other countries.  (In some countries, particularly Japan -- certainly in its ancient history and warrior past -- suicide was seen as honorable way to die, at least while fighting to preserve the country against invaders.)  In the United States, suicide is seen by most in the society as a cowardly way out.  Suicide is a frightening possibility, but to those who are mentally ill with deep depression, it appears to be common sense.  Eric Steel's film does not judge the act of suicide, but through some indelible and moving interviews with people who loved those who couldn't bare to live life a second longer, shines a light on us all, as we grapple uncomfortably to understand why someone would take their lives prematurely in a non-emergency situation (those who jumped from the burning World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, for example.)

"The Bridge" is a documentary that must be seen.  You may be horrified by it, but it at least encourages a dialogue about depression, something that each and everyone of us goes through on one level or another at some point in our lives.  Some of us go through it far more deeply of course, than others. 

"The Bridge" the directing and documentary debut of Eric Steel, was inspired by Tad Friend's article entitled "Jumpers" which appeared in New Yorker magazine on October 13, 2003.  It is a detailed account of the surprisingly high number of people over the years who have visited (and then jumped from) the Golden Gate Bridge, with its absence of suicide barriers to boot.  The eight-page piece is worth reading, if you care to.  I have already written a review of "The Bridge" and I hope that you will read it when the film is released in late October.  The trailer for the film is included here.  Perhaps it will help you decide if you want to endure 93 minutes of mystery, melancholy and miracles -- yes, miracles, for there is actually one jumper who survived his jump.  As he jumped he realized that he did not want to die. 

So please excuse this grim dispatch -- but sometimes sad, painful subjects need to be explored in order to help us understand, grow and help others.  Documentaries like "The Bridge" are definitely a step in that direction. 

(Note: "The Bridge" will be released on October 27 in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.)


Omar P.L. Moore
The Popcorn Reel

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