Guy Zhuoqin Yang, who created the documentary "The Colorado Bridge Project", is an award-winning filmmaker and video journalist who has the distinctive ability to connect with society by writing and producing extraordinary films. Yang, often regarded as a brilliant director, not only for his unique, cinematic vision in terms of compelling narration but also for his embrace of complex social and cultural issues.

His films address pressing issues at varying degrees and intensities, which makes him a vital force in the industry. Often described as a visual storyteller, Yang has produced several documentary projects that give light to both social and environmental issues, all while fulfilling the roles of independently producing, directing, filming, and editing his works.

Perhaps one of his most exceptional, award-winning projects, is "The Colorado Bridge Project". In the last year, the project won five awards at film festivals all over the world: Moscow Shorts (Documentary Shorts), Bengals International (Health Related Short), Pinnacle Film Awards (Documentary Short), Royal Wolf Film Awards (Best Documentary Short), and Hollywood Sun Awards (Best Documentary Short). This remarkable documentary is a visual journey through the world of suicide, seen through the eyes of a survivor, neighbors, community leaders, healthcare crisis prevention staff, and a passionate community that is committed to preserving the lives of many by inspiring hope. Guy's intriguing film, received with critical acclaim, investigates several suicide and attempt-suicide cases, promoting awareness to audiences all over the world.

How Guy Yang portrays the history of the Colorado Street Bridge

The Colorado Bridge is a massive, yet daunting physical structure in California’s history. Built-in 1913, the bridge was originally constructed to provide a link between Pasadena and Los Angeles. Historians describe the bridge as a uniquely configured serpentine curve, which differed significantly from the straight-line architectural design of other large bridges in California built during its time.

According to the local preservation group, Pasadena Heritage, all of the cement for the bridge was hand-poured, and, for many years, the bridge remained one of several scenic landmarks on Route 66. Surrounded by vast mansions and buildings, included later in the historical archive for the City of Pasadena, the Colorado Bridge existed for less than two decades before its presence became symbolic of fear, significant pain, and human tragedy.

According to local historians, the suicide stigma associated with The Colorado Bridge began in the early years of the Great Depression. Even during those times, it was not unusual for 10 to 12 suicide deaths per year to occur due to people jumping from the bridge. Many of the victims described as desperate, mentally ill people who had given up on life impacted the audience. In some instances, the economic wear and tear of The Depression may have been a catalyst. However, some argue against this theory. Reports of death by suicide from jumps off, which became known as “The Suicide Bridge,” seemed to double with each decade.

Sentiments expressed by Pasadena community members

As Guy vividly paints a picture on the screen, of the chronological history and significance of the Colorado Bridge, Yang brilliantly captures the sentiments of the Pasadena Community.

Many personal interviews with several neighbors strengthen the documentary.

A young married couple, who live in a neighborhood adjacent to the bridge, recount the sentiments felt when they learned, on their first day in their new home, that a man was standing on the bridge ready to jump. More disturbing was a time they shared about walking their dog early in the morning. This time, the two noticed a stream of blood, visibly flowing in a channel next to the bridge. The couple relived the distress and fear associated with recognizing “remnants of life” in their new community.

Another neighbor described an even more graphic scene where she witnessed a person jump from the bridge and hit the concrete.

As a viewer of the documentary, you can hear the despair in yet another neighbor’s voice when describes the eerie feeling of knowing that people were continually losing their lives as a result of committing suicide on the bridge.

Yang does a phenomenal job transitioning from the heartfelt emotion expressed by neighbors, to the frustration regarding the need for increased safety measures, mentioned by public officials. The documentary includes comments from the city’s Public Safety Director and a local civil engineer.

During an interview with the city’s Public Safety Director, he references efforts to make the bridge more “aesthetically appealing” in a way that discourages people from attempting to jump.

The documentary also includes an interview with Construction Engineer, Mel Green, who states frankly that the bridge is not physically restrictive enough to prevent those contemplating suicide from entering it.

Words from one of the Colorado Street Bridge suicide survivor

What makes this award-winning documentary particularly outstanding, is Yang capturing the life story of a suicide survivor. In October 2016, Joseph Ma, a recovering addict, survived a suicide attempt after jumping from hundreds of feet off the Colorado Bridge. Ma speaks honestly about the circumstances that led him to this tragic event, naming the abuse of drugs and alcohol, a feeling of hopelessness, hallucinations, and disconnection from his family as the culprit.

Although he landed on his feet, he suffered several broken bones, including his pelvis, and spent years from this day learning to walk again and recapturing his life. These graphic accounts of Ma’s story, connected with Yang’s timing of relative scene transitions, help viewers watching the documentary feel closer to the City of Pasadena and its struggle with this crisis.

Guy Yang visits the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center in Los Angeles for the "Colorado Bridge Project"

Yang also films a segment with a staff member at the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center in Los Angeles. Call Center Supervisor, Sandi Kramer, talks about the startling reality that 90 percent of suicide victims struggle with mental health issues.

Kramer casts some level of responsibility on the media, who she insists may sensationalize or glamorize suicide cases in a way that provides too much detail to victims. She suggests that the best thing to do is to have an honest conversation with someone who may be having suicidal thoughts.

Encouraging words at the end of the documentary

"The Colorado Bridge Project" documentary ends with encouraging words from Joseph Ma. After capturing scenes where Ma is regaining his mobile ability and receiving care from support staff, Yang ends the documentary with Ma, stressing the importance of never giving up; and, remembering that things eventually do get better.

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