3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets
Film Review by Kam Williams
Courtroom Documentary Chronicles Trial of White Man for Murder of Unarmed Black Teen at Florida Gas Station
On November 23, 2012, 45 year-old Michael Dunn attended his son’s wedding in Jacksonville, Florida with his girlfriend Rhonda. After the reception, the couple stopped at a gas station where they pulled in next to a red Dodge Durango blasting rap music.
Dunn asked the teenagers sitting inside to lower the volume. When they refused, a heated exchange ensued. According to Dunn, one of them in the back seat opened the door and leveled a shotgun directly at him. So, in fear for his own life, he pulled out his own pistol and emptied it into the car, mortally wounding 17 year-old Jordan Davis.
Instead of immediately calling the police, Dunn fled the scene. But he was eventually apprehended with the help of a bystander who had scribbled down his license plate number and reported it to the authorities.
The trial drew nation attention because it focused on yet another incident involving the shooting of an unarmed, young black male by a white man in Florida where trigger-happy aggressors tend to avoid prosecution by relying on a Stand Your Ground rationale. Why just the year before, George Zimmerman had successfully invoked the statute as giving him the right to ignore a 911 operator’s explicit order to stay in his car and not pursue Trayvon Martin.
Thus, the burning question in this instance became whether Dunn might also
somehow prevail in the face of damning testimony from Jordan’s three friends, who survived the attack, that none of them had threatened Dunn and that there was no gun in the Durango. Furthermore, Jordan couldn’t have opened the back door even if he wanted to, since the car’s kid- proof lock would have prevented him. And the icing on the cake was that Dunn’s own girlfriend would testify for the prosecution, admitting that he fabricated a bunch of alibis after the fact, like the claim that Jordan had brandished a weapon.
Still, to be found not guilty, all Dunn needed to do was convince the jury that his fears were well-founded and that his response was reasonable. But because it was also clear that Jordan and his friends had not broken the law, the case would ostensibly serve as a test of whether black lives mattered in the eyes of the supposedly colorblind criminal justice system.
Directed by Marc Silver, 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets is a powerful documentary revisiting the critical issues in the landmark legal proceeding. Besides painstakingly examining the evidence, the picture devotes considerable time to humanizing Jordan Davis via a combination of home movies and heartfelt reminiscences by his parents and friends.
A riveting courtroom drama chronicling an emotionally-draining showdown played out on a world stage between the Black Lives Matter and Stand Your Ground movements.
Excellent (4 Stars)
Running time: 85 minutes
Studio: Participant Media