“Angel of Nanjing” – The Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing is one of the most famous bridges in China. It is also the most popular place in the world to commit suicide. For
the past 11 years, Chen Si has been patrolling this bridge, looking to provide aid for those who’ve gone there to end their lives. Incredibly, he has
saved over 300 people since he began – nearly one every two weeks.
On May 5, 2010, after hearing about Chen Si’s story, Jordan Horowitz and Frank Ferendo bought tickets to China in order to document his ongoing
Relying purely on self-funding and no forms of social media, the duo
set off to China armed with their guerilla style of filmmaking and a
Chinese translators. On March 27, 2015, the two premiered the film
at the Phoenix Film Festival going on to win “Best Documentary” and
being the first
recipient of the Sidney K. Shapiro Humanitarian Award.
Frank Ferendo: “Suicide is a global thing, but a
third of all suicides happen in China – around 490,000. Every culture
has it. There’s just so many people in China and
it’s such a changing economy. Some of it is a Chinese problem. There
isn’t anything in China for people, whereas here stateside, there are
There’s hotlines, government help. China has hotlines but no one may
answer the phone. And in China, people don’t want to discuss their
problems even. It’s
a taboo. They hold it in, and it comes out in worse ways.”
Though the story was always compelling, Ferendo and Horowitz’s eye
extended beyond just the bridge. Their subject Chen Si is an incredibly
character in his own right, employing rescue methods that are
equally nurturing and aggressive – even sometimes exhibiting gallows
: “It was really about his grandmother and what she instilled in
him. He does suffer from depression and it deeply affects him. But he
never thought of
himself as a hero, he’s thought of himself as a failure for the ones
he couldn’t. He’s overwhelmed, none of his friends will listen. He
that. So he started a blog and his phone number is there for
depressed people to call him.”
Frank Ferendo : “He drinks a lot, he chain smokes.
He’s always got a cigarette going. He drinks every day. He talks about
why he does this. His heart can’t take it. He
must drink. To handle it all. And then he writes this poetry. The
burden of anyone he can’t save… He only goes every weekend. 2 days.
Because he has a
job, he has responsibilities.”
With a primary focus on narrative, Ferendo and Horowitz aim to provide information as well as entertainment.
: “My hope is that people don’t look at it like a foreign film. It’s
a global epidemic. It’s something that we can all relate to. And it’s
should be empathetic [about] too. The film takes place in China only
because that’s just where the guy is doing it.”
Frank Ferendo: “He doesn’t have any help. No government
help. He’s just decided to it himself. He works his job and funnels a
lot of money into this program he’s doing.
He would even sometimes bring people from the bridge home. And his
wife was not happy with that.”
: “It’s a major source of tension with his wife, not just
financially but also the time. He missed several years of his daughter
growing up. And the
reality is that he won’t do this forever. He’s hoping that people
see this film and are willing to step up. It’s a cause for concern and
I’m not sure what
the solution is.”
As of this article, “Angel Of Nanjing” is still seeking distribution.
Frank Ferendo has written three scripts in the past years and is hoping to film one next year.
Jordan Horowitz currently has a film in post-production titled “Painless,” which he aims to be finished by summer.