3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

On November 23, 2012, unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Russell Davis was shot at a Jacksonville gas station by Michael David Dunn. The film explores the aftermath of Jordan's tragic death, the latent and often unseen effects of racism, and the contradictions of the American criminal justice system.
"Silver exposes is an underlying, deep-seated prejudice rather than some sort of murderous instinct." | Photo: Participant Media

As tensions in the US over gun control continue to rise, Marc Silver's latest documentary dives head first into one of the cases that exposed fundamental problems with Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which permits deadly force without the need to first attempt to retreat as a self-defence tactic if a person believes it will "prevent death or great bodily harm". In simple terms, it means people have killed others not because they were a threat but simply because they thought they might be a threat.

African-American Jordan Davis was out with his friends on November 23, 2012, doing what lots of 17-year-olds have a tendency to do - playing music in their car at an annoyingly loud volume. When middle-aged white guy Michael Dunn and his girlfriend Rhonda Rouer pulled into the space next to them, the next few minutes would end in tragedy for everyone concerned after an argument went badly awry and Davis was hit by a hail of bullets and killed.

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Silver immediately immerses us in the event, with the 911 emergency call and police interview footage, before plunging us into the trial. The editing is slick and Silver - although inevitably biased by the fact that he accompanies Davis's grief-stricken parents Ron Davis and Lucia McBath throughout the trial - does a solid job of letting Dunn say his piece, including some depressing phone calls that clearly outline his attitude. "This will be behind us before we know it," Dunn insists to Rouer, as though it were just a bad day at the office, adding "I'm the victim who's being blamed".

But the shocking thing that Silver exposes is an underlying, deep-seated prejudice rather than some sort of murderous instinct. Dunn is, on many levels, no different in attitude from a lot of white male Floridians of his age and yet a boy he met will never seee his 18th birthday. Silver lets us feel the weight of the questions about a society that can leave the door open for this sort of death to happen. The events are emotionally raw, and all concerned feel the echoes. At one point, someone points out that, when discussing Trayvon Martin (an unarmed Florida teen also shot dead and whose killer was acquitted of murder), Davis said "we kind of look alike".

Silver sets out his moral maze, exploring insidious linguistics, such as the fact that "thug has become the new N-word" and his restrained approach - with the exception of unecessarily heavy scoring from Todd Boekelheide - pays dividends in allowing us to consider the horror of the facts. McBath - who along with others has gone on to campaign for better gun control - can also be seen in the even more probing documentary Armor Of Light, which takes the arguments raised here considerably further.

Reviewed on: 01 Oct 2015
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3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets packshot
Documentary about the trial of Michael Dunn, who shot an unarmed teenager and claimed a 'stand your ground' defence.
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Director: Marc Silver

Year: 2015

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

The Armor Of Light