Thursday, August 20, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets
A Life Treasured, Cherished...And Destroyed In Seconds

Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Russell Davis, who was murdered on November 23, 2012, in a moment from Marc Silver's documentary "3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets".
  Participant Media

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lucid, clear-eyed and matter-of-fact, Marc Silver’s documentary “3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets” chronicles the pain and heartbreak of Lucia McBath and Ron Davis with stunning ease, through courtroom footage and entirely first-person narrative. It’s effective, personal and devastating as it is evenhanded in its treatment of all sides affected by the fateful event of Friday, November 23, 2012, when Ms. McBath’s and Mr. Davis’s son Jordan was killed.

Jordan Davis was assassinated at a gas station by Michael Dunn, a white man, in Jacksonville, Florida. Dunn had time to drink champagne and eat pizza at a hotel miles and miles away with his girlfriend after shooting Mr. Davis.  He never called the police.  The killer claimed his life was in danger.  The mainstream U.S. media framed the resulting legal proceedings in 2014 as a “loud music” trial, adopting the language and mentality of the killer in shaping the story for the American public.

“3 1/2 Minutes”, the documentary’s original title, is a quiet, sobering documentary with the architectural structure of language and artifact at its front and center.  Mr. Silver wisely cedes the platform to Ms. McBath, Mr. Davis and Jordan’s friends to speak on Jordan’s behalf, to paint a picture of his life.  Home videos of Jordan Davis are especially touching, wondrous and painful in light of Jordan’s abbreviated life.

The examination of guns and America’s gun culture is not incidental to “3 1/2 Minutes”, and I suspect that this penetrating documentary, which enveloped me from start to finish, had the “Ten Bullets” added to the documentary’s title to emphasize the gun crisis in America.  The killer got easy access to the gun that fired ten bullets into a car, three of which struck Mr. Davis.

Ms. McBath gains a new life as a gun control activist.  She sets up scholarships in her late son’s name.  She travels around the country stirring the conscience of an outraged and indifferent nation.  America’s great contradiction, among others, is the rural/urban divide on guns and gun culture.  It is one of several effective and unspoken moments of the film.

Also unspoken but obvious to “3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets” is the racist climate of the killer and the institutions (the courtroom and predominantly white jurors) he sought the safe haven of.  Mr. Silver relies on the killer’s own damning words, his lack of remorse and racist beliefs, statements and adamant conviction he did the right thing and somehow did the world a favor by killing an unarmed 17-year-old boy.  The jury in February 2014 deadlocked on the first-degree murder charge for the killer, and only a subsequent September 2014 retrial resulted in a guilty verdict the following month, on top of a life sentence the killer was already serving.

The mood and feel of “3 1/2 Minutes”, or more accurately the events it depicts, spiked me with feelings of profound anger and sad reflection.  Jordan Davis should still be alive today, living his life and pursuing his dreams.  His family and friends should be enjoying the pleasure of his company, the insights and joys he would have brought them, the discoveries and pride he would have inspired.  Mr. Davis’s untimely loss and presence reverberates throughout “3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets”.  And it hurts deeply.

The escalation of violence in the American fabric is another unspoken but clear variable of Mr. Silver’s film. Impatience — especially for some white men — and a lack of conflict resolution and anger management usually results in disproportionate amounts of white men ending a life, not ending a dispute.

One need only refer to high-profile killings by white men (many of whom are police) of unarmed Black men and women in America in the 32 months since the killing of Jordan Davis.  Ray Tensing, Timothy Loehmann, Ted Wafer, Michael Slager, Dylann Roof, Dan Pantaleo, Darren Wilson are among just a few to note this truism of white-on-Black violence, which didn’t happen overnight in America.  (Last night in St. Louis, Mansur Ball-Bey, 18, was killed by police under apparently questionable circumstances.

Too often Black families are left picking up the pieces after white violence, police violence and Black violence ravages their familial structure.  “3 1/2 Minutes” shows us one of those families in that shattering, barren aftermath, bravely opening up to express their most intimate feelings, thoughts, joys and agonies to us.

“3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets” is not rated by the Motion Picture Association Of America.  The film's running time is one hour and 25 minutes.

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