Angel of Nanjing
Directed by: Frank Ferendo, Jordan Horowitz
Released on: VOD
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther
Since September 19, 2003, it has been estimated that Si Chen has saved somewhere between 150-300 lives. Chen is not a doctor. He is not a Hollywood superhero. And he certainly is not, literally, an angel. Chen is a human being who smokes too much, who "can't drink much," but who also cares so much about his fellowman and woman that he voluntarily patrols the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing, China, every weekend, looking for people contemplating death.
On any given day people come to jump off and down 150 meters to "disappear" or "die clean" at the number one suicide destination in the world. (The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is number two). Unfortunately, Chen is not there every day to save lives because he works at Ping-An, a Logistic Company, during the week. Indeed, he often comes home to hear reports of yet another suicide.
"I failed 80 to 90 last year," says Chen, who has been recognized for his humanitarian efforts by Nanjing officials on several occasions.
Chen is being hard on himself. After all, he volunteers his time, money and services, working back and forth along the bridge, looking for wannabe jumpers. An expert at eyeing the near-dying, whenever Chen spots one he immediately goes into action, seemingly to know what to say and do to get the man or woman away from the ledge.
"Cherish life everyday," says Chen. "There is no right to destroy one's life."
After bringing the suicidal to a safe place, Chen's concern does not stop there. Whatever problem the person is having, Chen (along with the help of his friends) tries to find ways to help that person. If one wishes to jump because of lack of employment, Chen finds him or her a job. In another case, when a woman wishes to jump because she feels she is a failure at her marriage, Chen sets up a meeting with the woman and her husband and gives some solid marital counsel. Even after years have passed, Chen keeps an eye on the ones he saved.
"There is a saying in China," Chen says. "The prosperity of a nation is everyone's responsibility." Commies!
Of course it is no surprise this guy has lots of friends who owe him. The man who is slowly killing himself with cigarettes has taught these survivors of sorts the value of life.
But Chen's devotions has taken some toll on Chen's family and his finances. Time and money has been lost on loved ones in order to help strangers. It also leaves Chen feeling guilty about abandoning the family member most responsible for making him the kind, generous human being he has become.
Solid in its scope, this inspiring 64-minute documentary by co-directors/producers Frank Ferendo and Jordan Horowitz offers a portrait of a man who gives his best for others. The directors also manage to catch some people who were just about to jump to her or his death. They also capture a few who actually do jump.
Angel of Nanjing