Film captures Golden Gate Bridge suicide
May 1, 2006
By Pat Murphy
The top of a white truck crossing the Golden Gate
Bridge seemed the only movement until a lower corner splash in
San Francisco Bay.
The truck kept moving, not slower, not faster, across
Life confirming color hues of the panoramic Bay
shot changed not a whit.
Everything changed and nothing changed.
Another jumper was dead but it was too quick for
life to notice.
The moment captured on film by producer Eric Steel
was among six Bridge suicides screened Sunday as part of the San
Francisco International Film Festival.
Hundreds packed the Kabuki Theater auditorium and
balcony, clogging aisles, for this unseen view of the Bridge.
More people have chosen the Golden Gate Bridge to
commit suicide than any other location in the world. Their ranks
'The Bridge' opens to an audience suddenly stiffened
by a close-up shot.
A robust man of middle years saunters from left
of the screen and steps smartly over the rail.
He looks the classic buoyant uncle.
Without so much as a by your leave or screw you
first, he seats himself, looks down to the right, down to the
left, and leans forward every bit as casually to drop himself
Very few in the audience gasped. More time was needed
to grasp scope of the contradiction.
Steel crafted two components of the film.
Family and friends provide build-up to their loved
one's suicide and its impact on their lives.
Muscles tightened around tear swollen eyes of one
"He had people in his life who loved him and
he hurt me," protests a friend in anger and loss.
Steel interweaves loved one recollections with scenes
of those about to jump still pacing the Bridge.
For some, the pacing was long.
"Take a picture? You want me to take a picture
of you and I'm here committing suicide?" Kevin Hines thought
to an ebullient tourist.
For some, the pacing saved them.
Steel also captured moments of intervention preventing
the final leap.
Bridge security personnel scan live video surveillance
of Bridge walkways, grown adept at spotting suicidal indications.
"It happens all the time," a Bridge toll-taker
said softly to a woman who had just witnessed a suicide in her
A professional still photographer caught photos
of a woman standing next to him on the bridge as she climbed over
The slight woman dallied below just long enough
for the burly photographer to lift her by one hand back to safety
and to arriving security officers.
Hines in generosity accommodates tourist photo shoot
and then jumps.
He survived the 225-foot drop, angry it took the
Golden Gate Bridge District so many years to seriously consider
a suicide barrier. The district is comprised of multi-county representatives.
"I think there's been movement recently because
district elections in San Francisco permitted more forward thinking
people to sit on the board," San Francisco Supervisor Tom
Ammiano told the Sentinel yesterday.
Ammiano led a years long effort to erect a barrier
with the Bridge District last week approving the final $250,000
of a $2 million suicide barrier study.
Dr. Mel Blaustein, head of the Psychiatric Foundation
of Northern California, accompanied Ammiano for West Coast premier
of The Bridge.
"Suicide is impulsive, preventable, and treatable,"
Blaustein asserted to the Sentinel.
Francisco Suicide Prevention.