The Joy of Life

2005 | Documentary / Mental Health / Suicide | 65m | USA
Directors: Jenni Olson

Multitalented performance artist Harriet “Harry” Dodge (By Hook or By Crook, Cecil B. Demented) brings to life this innovative story of a butch dyke in San Francisco searching for love and self-discovery. Against a backdrop of stunning landscape cinematography, this bold, lyrical voiceover film evolves from lesbian lust story to inventive documentary—delving into explicit descriptions of lesbian sexuality and offering up a quick look at Frank Capra’s 1941 film Meet John Doe before embarking on the fascinating and previously untold history of the Golden Gate Bridge as a suicide landmark. A true San Francisco experience, The Joy of Life also includes poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti intoning his ode to the City by the Bay, “The Changing Light” and features music from legendary poet-painter (and probable Golden Gate suicide) Weldon Kees.

Reviews and Awards

“pic's investigation into the bridge's tainted iconography is lucid and precise ...” —Scott Foundas, Variety

"One of the most sensuous documentaries you will ever see." -East Bay Express

"An experimental melodrama in landscape photography drag...a complex examination of love, lust and genre." -Camerawork: A Journal of Photographic Arts

"Thrillingly minimalist. Gently hypnotic." -The Village Voice

"Vividly evocative... Makes the ordinary extraordinary." -The Boston Globe

Official Selection: 2005 Sundance Film Festival

Winner: Best US Screenplay Award - NewFest: New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

Winner: Outstanding Artistic Achievement Award - Outfest: Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

Winner: Marlon Riggs Award (for courage & vision in Bay Area filmmaking) - San Francisco Film Critics Circle