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On the Bridge of Death and Life

Every year many thousands of people visit the mighty Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge. Every year dozens of them have no intention of leaving the bridge alive. But there is one person determined not to see them plummet to their deaths: Chen Si.
For some 13 years now he has sacrificed every free weekend to patrol back and forth across the bridge on his motorcycle.
Today, having pulled more than 200 desperate souls back from the brink, Chen Si has become a national hero and saving lives his profession.
This documentary delves into the hearts and minds of three people who were saved by Chen Si at various stages in his career. In doing so it sheds light on a people squeezed between post-communist dreams and the harsh laws of unmitigated capitalism. In the midst of all this we find Chen Si, trying to cope with his role but struggling with life just like all the others around him.

Why live? Why die? What's the meaning of it all?

And Chen Si has his own personal story to tell…

  • Lola-Jia Liu
  • Wolfgang Bergmann
  • Lars Barthel
  • Johannes Hiroshi Nakajima
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Auf der Brücke von Tod und Leben
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 38 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    October 30, 2016
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • IDFA
    November 24, 2016
    World Premiere
  • Calcutta International Cult Film Festival
    Qualified for the GOLDEN FOX AWARD in the Best Debut Filmmaker Category
  • Sopot Film Festival
    July 11, 2017
    Jury's Honorable Mention
  • Sunlight International Film Festival
  • Best Film Awards
  • Cinema Verite
    Iran, Islamic Republic of
    November 22, 2017
  • Bucharest Film Awards
    October 14, 2017
    Best Trailer
Distribution Information
  • Lichtfilm
    Country: Germany
Director Biography - Lola-Jia Liu

Lola­ Jia Liu is born in Beijing and is now living in Germany. She graduated from TU­ Chemnitz in media department. Her graduated documentary work “Why Singing” has been invited at the Chinese Film Festival in the Filmhaus Cologne in 2010. Being as an independent director of documentary from then on, and works as a freelancer director for Germany television WDR, producing short films about Chinese people's life in Germany.

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Director Statement

Chen Si’s fame has long since spread beyond local Chinese media. Today he is known to a good many international broadcasting stations, journalists and filmmakers as a Chinese Samaritan, a hero who has saved the lives of hundreds. Initially this was how I saw him too. His story seemed to make promising film material and so I set to work.

But when shooting began, I discovered that things are not like that at all. For Chen Si "rescue" is not what we would immediately associate with the word. He selects the people he wants to help. If the chances of success appear too low, he ensures that potential suicides are simply removed from the bridge. Sometimes even with the help of the police, although he knows that they can expect to be punished before simply being sent home. Those he can take care of are taken to the flat he runs as a refuge. But there is no attempt to provide psychotherapy, as there would be in the west. In the end, he tries to get rid of them as fast and elegantly as possible, arguing
that otherwise they would become dependent on him.

Although Chen Si rattled off a host of reasons for this rough and ready way of caring for people, they all struck me as superficial and my view of him suffered accordingly. It was only when I learnt that he had a second daughter from a previous marriage and that his fatherinlaw had insisted on the divorce and chased
him out of the house that I began to understand Chen Si better. The first, chance rescue had changed his life. He had suddenly been shown public respect, something he would immediately forfeit if he gave up his mission. Having few prospects beyond this rescue work on the bridge, he made it his profession.
It is a profession with which he can feed his family and heal his past. No normal person could endure this work for over ten years and this is why I am convinced that he does indeed have a real interest in the people he saves. Yet he has become not
only skilful at marketing himself but also so dependent on it that can no longer stop.

For me, the point in the film where he sobs uncontrollably reveals his inner suffering. He is not really up to this work anymore and turns to alcohol to numb his feelings and forget his plight. We cannot blame him for this.

Chen Si isn't a hero. He is just as much in need of rescue as the people he collects from the bridge. The rapid development of Chinese society leaves scars on the souls of people like Chen Si, XueFang and Lao Zhang. And people like Lao Shi, who has
already attempted suicide once, still has no prospects and puts all his hopes in his amusement arcade. The façade may be modern and attractive – but behind it are suffering and scars. This is the truth about modern China that I want to express in
my film.