CITIZEN 54

DOUGLAS CHRISTIAN

Q: Describe the struggles of Citizen 54 (the character).  What draws your central character to the “ghost bikes” of London?

A: Citizen 54 struggles with trauma associated with his previous life as a soldier, the death of friends and colleagues in war, his own guilt and fear compounded by his alcohol abuse. He struggles to find a place and meaning in a society that largely neglects it’s ex servicemen and women, many who find it difficult to re-integrate into civilian life. He is drawn to the Ghost Bikes as they represent, to him, the victims of his war, who have been commemorated by their friends and families and are a daily reminder that someone has died tragically and unnecessarily on their bicycles.

Q: What draws the girl to him, and why does she need to understand his struggle?

A: BMX Girl is drawn to Citizen 54 as his daily ritual of tending to the Ghost Bikes intrigues her. She doesn’t understand his purpose or his motivation and despite her own battles with complex issues and abuse, she is compelled to find out more about him. By understanding his struggle, she will ultimately make some sense of her own.

Q: How did this story originate?

A: I ride a bike regularly in East London and there are several Ghost Bikes in the area. There was one particular Ghost Bike, which we used in the film, at a set of traffic lights. I used to stop right by it regularly over the years and was always profoundly affected by the fact that a cyclist had been killed on that very spot and that their friends and family had created a monument that was not just to commemorate their life, but also acted as a warning to the hazards associated with sharing the road and made cyclists and drivers more aware.

The characters are influenced by my work as a Social Worker. I worked with the homeless in Sydney Australia in the 90’s. Many were Vietnam Veterans and victims from the Balkans, who were still living their own war, drowned in alcohol and drugs, post traumatic stress syndrome and other mental health issues associated with war. It always saddened me that these people had been neglected and marginalised by mainstream society receiving no additional care or support. There was one particular Vet who, before he got to drunk, would walk around the inner city streets of Sydney and pick up rubbish. He once told me it was his mission and gave him a purpose for the day, otherwise his only contribution was to get drunk and annoy people. The character of Citizen 54 was vey loosely based upon him.

In London I have been working with adolescents involved in the criminal justice system and prison for 13 years and the BMX Girl character is influenced by many of the abused girls I have worked with.  

I thought that the idea someone, with no personal connection to the each Ghost Bike and made it their mission to tend to their care, an interesting concept to try and create.

Q: Your title, and title character, suggest an anonymity. How does the story reflect the stories of society’s invisible members?

A: There are so many stories and I think that the people who have the most to tell are often the ones who find it difficult to express themselves. I believe that there is a tendency for the majority to largely ignore or fear those that exist on the margins of society and never give a thought to the journey that brought them to their current place in the world.

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SCREENING:

SUNDAY AUGUST 11TH AT 1PM

THURSDAY AUGUST 15TH AT 5:30PM

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