Three of the 2015 Tribeca Fest films focus on the theme of suicide, although in very different ways. One of the movies is a full-length narrative based on a true story, and the other two are documentary shorts.
“Bridgend” is a narrative by filmmaker Jeppe Ronde set and shot in an area of Wales where more than 75 young people (mostly teens) have committed suicide since 2009. No one knows why. While there are some truly beautiful shots in this film, it’s barely lit and enormously grim. It stars Hannah Murray of “Game of Thrones,” who won the Festival’s Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Award. The film also won juried awards for Best Cinematography and Best Narrative Editing.
Ronde purportedly spent a great deal of time in the region and interviewed a lot of people before writing the script. Like the people in the real life drama, he comes to no conclusions in the film, and that leaves us all feeling as hopeless as I imagine the people in Wales feel. I can’t imagine what it was like for them to have the movie shot where it all happened or to see the finished product. Frankly, it feels a bit intrusive. While the acting work is fine and the drama is intense, the feeling you’re left with is futility.
“Man Under” is an equally grim documentary by Paul Stone and Vincent Tozzi about a New York City subway conductor’s experience of seeing a woman jump in front of his train. It shows that the MTA does not give operators even close to enough time off if something like this occurs on their watch, but the hardest part of watching this film is surveillance video of people jumping onto the tracks and lying down, waiting for their fate. The video stops short of showing the impact. While there is no hope offered by this film either, it brings awareness to the PTSD that train operators go through after these incidents.
“Better to Live” by Linda G. Mills is the only one of the three films that offers hope. This short documentary shows university drama majors writing musical theater pieces about the issues that often propel young people to kill themselves. These kids take their work very seriously and are enormously talented. They’re doing good work and actually saving lives, so it’s nice to see them get their due on film. This one deserves a full-length feature.