Sunday, October 01, 2006

jumpers


Sunset on the Golden Gate Bridge
Originally uploaded by Wiggum03


I won’t be seeing this movie when it screens next weekend at the Chicago International Film Festival:

The Bridge
An Architectural marvel and one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, the Golden Gate Bridge has also been the site of over 1,300 suicide attempts.

With cameras set around the bridge throughout 2004, director Eric Steel captured 23 successful suicides and one survivor. This discomforting footage is accompanied by interviews with witnesses, family, and friends of the deceased to seek out what the camera could not capture – the thoughts and events preceding the tragic moments.

I won’t be seeing it because the thought of the camera’s eye watching without interceding horrifies me. I won't be seeing it because I’ve been on the periphery of suicides and the complexity of the grief that they leave in their wake is something that I doubt I’ll ever comprehend – or want to encounter again.

But I also won't be seeing it because I feel strangely connected to these folks, and almost complicitous: My maternal grandparents own a mortuary in Mill Valley which, because of its proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge, receives the lion’s share of Golden Gate suicides as “clients” -- clients who over the years put food in their children’s mouths; into my mother's mouth.

I learned of this strange community contribution through the individual who runs the place now, my grandparents having leased it to him when they retired many years ago. He calls them the Jumpers, and it only came up when I visited some time back with my mother to see the old place -- to learn more about where she had done some of her growing up in the little apartment over the embalming room (!) -- because a Jumper had just arrived the night before.

“They’re just like jelly when they come in,” he said. "Every bone breaks when they hit the surface." The water transforms them into one of its own.

5 comments:

Leslie said...

KFOG radio interviewed the filmmaker this morning, and he said that they actually did intercede whenever they identified a potential suicide--although in most cases, the action took place too suddenly. It's my understanding, from this morning’s discussion, that the purpose of the film is, in large part, to shed light on the problem as a *problem*. The filmmaker couldn’t believe that we, as a society, have the ability to put up a barricade that hasn’t been built. He thought that perhaps his being from New York gave him an outsider’s voice regarding the collective blindness about the bridge and its connection to suicide; however, he was also clearly bringing to the film his own still-raw emotions regarding 9-11 (his apartment faced the World Trade Center) and the people who chose to jump rather than face death inside the buildings. Without seeing the film, one can’t tell whether the movie will have found the “right” voice to tell this complex story, but it was clear this guy was trying…

suttonhoo said...

interesting -- thanks for the backstory, Leslie -- based on the short blurb that accompanied the film listing the filmmaker's intent wasn't clear -- I'll do some more reading before I make up my mind.

would be very interested to hear back if you see it.

Leslie said...

The movie got a horrible review in the SJ Mercury News. One star, I think. Apparently, the filmmaker's message didn't emerge from the rest of the images. The reviewer wrote: "...a snuff film with alleged good intentions..." Blech.

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/15855689.htm

suttonhoo said...

hey thanks for the follow up -- I'll strike it off my list for good now. ;)

patrick said...

I am curious to know how the suicide net will affect the aerodynamics of the bridge.

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