Movie Review: 3 1/2 MINUTES, 10 BULLETS (USA 2015) ***1/2

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3_minutes_ten_bullets_poster3 1/2 MINUTES, 10 BULLETS (USA 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Marc Silver

Review by Gilbert Seah

An altercation begins over loud rap music at a gas station parking lot. 3 1/2 minutes and 10 bullets later, a black teen, Jordan Davis is shot dead by a white man in a car. The totally absorbing documentary is a courtroom drama, made even more real because what transpired is not only true but relevant in the perception of homicide and race in America.

The facts of the case: In 2012, a middle-aged white man, Michael Dunn, was arrested after fatally shooting a young black man, Jordan Davis, outside a gas station in Jacksonsville, Florida with his gun in the glove compartment of his car. It was a case of loud music. While Dunn’s fiancé went into the station for wine, loud music from a car with 4 black youths caused Dunn to ask them to turn the ‘rap crap’ down. The altercation escalated to the shooting of Jordan while the youths’ car pulled away.

The jury of 12 is to determine the verdict of the 5 counts of murder. What is so different about this doc is that director Silver puts the audience in the position of the jury. All the facts are presented in disturbing detail. The audience hears both sides of arguments of the two attorneys, examines the faces of both Dunn, the accused and the parents of the victim, and each the enactments. As the jury enters closed doors to make the decision, the audience is also forced to come up with his or her decision on the case. It is a very good tactic that works well to keep the audience focused on the facts and absorbed in the film at the same time.

The interviewees include Lucia McBath and Ron Davis, Jordan’s parents. The court proceedings focus often on the reactions of accused Michael Dunn, often in closeups, as if the man can be in scrutiny by the audience. The mother is often shown in tears while the father peaks fondly of his son, like his last time holding the boy in his arms in the hospital. As for Dunn, the camera allow him to tell his side of the story, how he loves his fiancé and how he feels he is the victim who should not deserve life imprisonment. In his own words, he just wants to go home to make love to his wife and then sleep. Director Silver makes his story a very personal and emotional one. On the other side, the audience also sees how good each lawyer is, each able to manipulate the evidence and testimonies to the side’s favour.

The attorneys make it clear that the case be treated as a nonracial crime, and one that resulted in antisocial behaviour and loud music. But this turns out to be another very high profile trial, very similar to the Trayvon Martin killing, in which a young black man in Florida was killed by a white community-watch volunteer. The demonstrations outside the court indicate the people want to know if the shooting young black men is something white people can get away with. It is clear thy do not want the truth, they want a guilty verdict regardless. But for Canadians and other non residents in the States, the case is more about guns – whether the right to bear arms in the States is still worth the mindless deaths of so many.

From the testimonies, it is clear that someone is lying. Dunn could be lying that he saw a weapon and acted in self define. or the youth could have discarded the weapon before the cops arrived. But self defense or not, Jordan did not deserve to die.

Silver’s documentary is both timely in its subject matter and absorbing in its execution. These are two good reason to put this doc on your must-see 2016 list.

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