A Deconstruction of a Life and a Death
I am always amazed by filmmakers who can show us in a short film what many others cannot do in epic length movies, In just 32 minutes, Jaime Longhi looks at how a mentally ill person can drown himself in a few feet of water on a crowded Memorial Day beach. We see a tall, middle-aged, fully dressed man walks up to his shoulders into the cold shallow waters of San Francisco Bay; and then waits. Soon many police and fire units arrive at the scene in response and they wait. A crowd watches and waits as the man succumbs to the tide and within an hour loses consciousness. His body slowly washes back to shore and still, they wait. “Shallow Waters” deconstructs the events of that hour as a way to understand what happened and why as what everyone was waiting for. It also asks important questions about the value of life and the social contract and it truly gives us a lot to think about.
The man was Raymond Zack and the incident of his public drowning is a deeply disturbing event. As we look at that day that was to be his last, we have real questions about what being human means. I find the entire business hard to believe. No one, not one person tried to help and I am just not sure what this says about morality. The documentary says nothing about it either and like the people who were there that day, it just waits. However, it waits it gives us some serious and ethical questions to think about. It always says something about how we feel about the mentally ill and those less fortunate than we are. In watching this compelling film, we ask ourselves about the ethical responsibility we have for each other and why bureaucracies today do not work as they should. I try to imagine what was going on in the minds of those that waited and did nothing. Where was the quality of trust here and what about the funded community services that have been created to protect us. Even more important is that I am sure that everyone who sees this brilliant film will ask him/herself when he/she would have done if they had been there.