Saturday, June 24, 2006


Yesterday's Guardian had an odd article about a new film documenting suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge. The Bridge was made by tracking pedestrian movements on the Golden Gate for a year and is apparently a thought-provoking piece of work, using the images as a starting-point for an examination of responses and non-responses to the suicides.

The film has also provoked some serious controversy because Eric Steel, the director, lied to the Golden Gate Bridge District about the purpose of his film. He claimed, it seems, that his project was aimed at capturing the "powerful and spectacular interaction between the monument and nature," and only revealed his true purpose shortly before the film came out. Moreover, when he interviewed the families of suicides, he didn't tell them that he had filmed their deaths.

Steel's excuse for this was that he didn't want to encourage people to throw themselves off the bridge. It seems just as likely, though, that he didn't want to be stopped from filming.

Whether his deception was worth it for his film I don't know. These films might help in developing our understanding of the world - I'm certainly open to the possibility. In which case the deception may be justifiable. The problem is that it's very hard to distinguish between a genuine attempt to understand the world and someone's presenting good reasons to elide more purient motives. Their statements might just be parasitic on good reasons, if you see what I mean.

Speaking of which, here's a Bridge District spokesperson, as reported in the Guardian, choosing not just to say that she's pissed off about being lied to and uncomfortable about a potentially grubby project:
if Steel misrepresented himself on his application for a permit, that gave us cause for concern relative to the security of the bridge. He has likely recorded patrol patterns and lighting and intrusion detection elements.
So. It's a national security issue. Hmmmm.

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