Why Kill Yourself…


…just because you missed yesterday's issue of the SF Chronicle, which includes this great Matier and Ross story about a filmmaker who hoodwinked Golden Gate Bridge officials into allowing him to film a year's worth of footage at Fort Point, only to reveal later that he was really just there to film the 19 people who jumped to their deaths from the bridge:

Eric Steel initially told officials he planned to spend a year filming the "powerful and spectacular interaction between the monument and nature" and that his work was to be the first in a series of documentaries about national monuments such as the St. Louis Arch and the Statue of Liberty.

Last week, Steel sent an email revealing that he had footage of most of the year's bridge jumpers, but describing the project in the same pompous terms:

Steel says his goal is to "allow us to see into the most impenetrable corners of the human mind and challenge us to think and talk about suicide in profoundly different ways."

Fans of the Faces of Death films will recall that the narrator of that infamous series always took the same tone of professorial, for-our-own-good seriousness when introducing scenes of inscrutable Orientals eating the brains of live monkeys. Steel is now requesting interviews with bridge employees about the suicides, and as the kind of reporter who gets into a cold sweat just calling an entry-level flack to request a press release, I have to say I admire his chutzpah. A GGNRA spokesman, blaming those pesky "free-speech guidelines," doubts the feds will be able to stop Steel from completing and showing his film.

It's the pride of every Californian that the Golden Gate Bridge's pedestrian area remains remarkably free of nets, high fences, and other barriers to jumpers. A couple years ago, Tad Friend described this phenomenon, and the strange silence of both officials and local residents about how common Bridge suicides really are. Although officials worry that Steel might inspire copycat jumpers, my concern is that more attention to this topic will eventually drive park officials to put up some sort of unsightly barricades. The suicide-readiness of the Golden Gate Bridge is a luxury I have not (yet) availed myself of, but it's nice to know it's there.