Cinema Review: 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, August 7th, 2020  

3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets

Studio: Participant Media
Directed by Marc Silver

Jun 29, 2015 Web Exclusive
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A white, middle-aged man opened fire on four armed teenagers, an event that is the subject of Marc Silver’s latest documentary 3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets. Perhaps those details are not enough to stir the memory of this particular shooting, a narrative that grows more familiar each year. Silver sets out to downplay that ambiguity with a film that centers warmly on the victim and his family, while also giving frightening insight into his killer’s unchecked privilege.

Michael Dunn gunned down Jordan Davis after an argument over music volume in a gas station parking lot. It happened on Black Friday 2012, during the aftermath the Trayvon Martin case, another young black man killed by George Zimmerman. Like Martin, Davis was killed in Florida, and Dunn’s lawyer’s cited the state’s controversial “stand your ground” law that protects gun users who open fire on a perceived threat.

There was a time when the notion of a documentary implied a certain objectivity. That’s kind of eroded by now, as documentaries no longer worry about revealing their biases or even promoting an agenda. 3 ½ Minutes finds a good middle ground for presenting its case as straightforward as possible, with most of the footage taken from Dunn’s trial, but also highlights the impact of Davis’ murder on his friends family and the ensuing aftermath.

In the end, the film takes no position on gun violence, race, or “stand your ground,” but allows Dunn to damn himself with his own opinions, via recorded phone calls to his fiancé from jail. Dunn spouts off ignorant diatribes about a violent subculture and sagging pants, and openly questions “where are their fathers?” Meanwhile, Davis’ father is a prominent presence throughout the film, just as he was during Davis’ life. He describes a conversation he had with his son about Trayvon Martin, and mournfully talks about receiving a text from Martin’s father welcoming him to a club nobody wants to be in. Dunn, in jail, insists he is no racist.

If anything, the film suffers from focusing too much on the trial, and leaves questions about the social movement and ensuing political conversations unanswered. Of course, the film’s release is tragically timely, but filmgoers hoping to find some sense of empowerment from 3 ½ Minutes might feel unsatisfied. Not because justice isn’t served, but because there is no easy out from this ugly situation. Racism, more specifically violent racism, still lives in America. However, Dunn is a racist in denial, but nonetheless is another white male who insisted the world play by his rules, and took a life in defense of that privilege. This film proves that racism denial is as lethal as racism cloaked in white hoods, and though the prognosis of its eradication is bleak, offers a sense of justice for once.

Author rating: 7/10

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