At first study, Eric Steel’s intense portrait of the Golden Gate Bridge as suicide-jumper magnet is impressive for its tenacious, nonjudgmental grappling with so taboo a subject. There’s something courageous about the way The Bridge quietly yet rigorously riffs on public self-destruction, through respectful interviews with the families and friends of the dead—even, in one instance, a confoundingly charming young man who jumped and survived—and through disturbing, ethereal footage of several actual jumps. It’s thought-provoking stuff, only marginally tarnished by a New Agey score and a lone babbling interviewee.
Yet we can’t help but wonder how Steel managed to capture those jumps uninterrupted. Turns out he hoodwinked authorities into letting him film the bridge for all of 2004, in which time he shot 23 out of 24 of that year’s suicides. (Would one not have sufficed?) He claims to have called the cops whenever a jumper appeared serious. Nevertheless, two shown here do themselves in unimpeded, and one is camera-stalked for an uncomfortably long time for maximum climactic buildup. Steel can talk all he wants about making people “look harder at the world,” but this is just voyeurism dressed up as social research. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Mark Holcomb