November 28, 2010


"Tactlessly morbid or remarkably sensitive? Deeply disturbing or viscerally fascinating? Critics are divided on Eric Steel’s unique documentary on the Golden Gate Bridge, wonder of the modern world and notorious suicide destination." 
-Critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes 

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is one of the most popular places on earth to commit suicide.  In 2004 director Eric Steele filmed the bridge all day, every day, for the whole year.  He captured 23 suicides on camera.  He then tracked down the families of some of the people he had filmed jumping, and found out about their lives, and their motivations for killing themselves.  What follows is a difficult, moving, and controversial film about the darkest places the human mind can go.

In terms of it being a documentary about suicide, it is very well done.  I don't know any other film on the subject that creates as much empathy, or gives as much insight into the desire to take your own life.  The subjects range from the clinically depressed, to the mentally ill.  One of the interviewees is a jumper who survived the fall, and he reveals that as soon as he jumped, he realised he wanted to live.  It poses a very interesting question - is suicide preventable?

Which makes it difficult for me to write a critique of the film without considering how the footage was acquired. 

When people think of film making, they think of glamour, and excitement.  But actually, many film makers are motivated because they want to create something meaningful that will help others.  Because of this noble intention, a film maker will sometimes act against their own humanitarianism, believing the film's impact will justify the means.  I've kept the camera rolling in situations where people have broken down in tears.  My human instinct is to cut, but my film making instinct overrides that.

In this documentary, Eric Steele has taken things one step further, walking a fine line between observational film maker and... well... cold-blooded human (a man who could have done something).  'The Bridge' is a powerful film, but I honestly don't know if it was worth it.

No rating... How can you rate something like this?!  All I can say is that since it's been already made I would definitely recommend seeing it.


November 19, 2010


"This film is the story of what happened when this guy tried to make a documentary about me.... but he was actually a lot more interesting than I am.  So... now the film's about him!  It's not 'Gone with the Wind', but there's probably a moral in there somewhere."  - Banksy

So begins the first film to star the world's most commercially-successful enigma. 

Street Art has a cornerstone in my heart (my first film was a documentary on the Irish graffiti scene), so I've been eagerly anticipating a documentary about the Street Art movement.  And in spite of my own vague bias that Banksy "isn't as good as he used to be", 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' did not disappoint me.

Shop owner Thierry, is a French man living in L.A with his family.  He has one unusual habit - he films absolutely everything that happens to him and around him.  This obsession proves useful when Thierry discovers that his cousin is the world-famous French Street Artist 'Space Invader'.  He begins filming him, and his journey takes us on a street art tour of L.A.  Along the way we meet some of the giants in the Street Art scene - particularly Banksy and Shepard Fairy.  However, after some time, the excitement of hanging out with these talented, and commerically successful artists, begins to go to Thierry's head...

'Exit Through the Gift Shop' is fantastic for several reasons.  It's fun to watch, has a good story, and gives a consolidated overview of the Street Art movement (which is by no means an exhaustive overview, but it covers certain aspects very well).  On top of that, it poses interesting questions about the legitimacy of Art and the Art World (which graffiti writers and street artists tend to ridicule).

But for me, the best thing was the realisation afterwards that the whole thing was a hoax!  In a subversion of the mockumentary genre, the events in the film really happened (with one or two exceptions orchestrated especially for the film), but the protagonist (Thierry) is a fictitious character.  Street Art by its nature, pokes fun at anything that encourages people to be mindless - whether these are institutions or trends.  Banksy takes Street Art one step further, creating a film about duping that dupes us!  He even had the premiere in a tunnel near Waterloo Station (referred to as "London's darkest and dirtiest cinema") and I can just picture him laughing his head off at all the trendies who were paying money to sit in the cold and filth because they were thought it was cool (I would have sat there!). If only he hadn't done that terrible Simpson's intro, I would be tempted to call the man a genius.  Well done sir!

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