Documentaries have the ultimate responsibility to inform the public about whatever topic the director has chosen to discuss. And with the current climate of the country today, it’s safe to say that 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets is not only informational, but intelligent, sometimes painful to watch, and a film that couldn’t have come at a better time. About a racially-charged shooting, director Marc Silver leads us by the hand as we take a front-row seat to the aftermath of a shooting that still reverberates around the country.
It’s 2012 and Jacksonville, Florida is experiencing shopping madness on the day after Thanksgiving. After finishing up with the mall, four friends stop at a gas station, their music playing loudly, being teenagers. Directly next to them, a man and woman pull up. An argument about the loud music ensues that culminates in the firing of ten bullets and one dead teen, changing the lives of those closest to him forever. 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets documents the aftermath of this event, it’s ramifications, and leaves one truly questioning racial issues in our society that are so deeply ingrained.
The film is most definitely an important one. It follows all the courtroom drama matter-of-factly and doesn’t play into emotional manipulation, like it easily could have. By looking at the actual facts and figures surrounding the case, leaving the majority of the participants’ emotions out of it, Silver breaks down the case and examines it by partaking in the courtroom proceedings and laying everything bare.
Since the majority of the film takes place in a courtroom, there are obviously two sides of the story being told. The shooter, Michael Dunn, along with the parents of dead 17-year-old Jordan Davis talk about the normalcy of their lives just hours before everything went down. Dunn was visiting Jacksonville for his son’s wedding, and Davis hanging out with friends, neither realizing that everything was going to be forever changed by those few minutes.
Silver explores the racially charged side of things, and as time goes on, one can easily begin to see this aspect of the court proceedings begin to take shape. It’s not as apparent, its subtlety often overshadowing the mere idea that this could have anything to do with race, but the director, through people’s comments and evidence, begins to question Dunn and the intentions behind his actions and changing testimony. As the story unfolds, so too do the facts.
Ultimately, 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets is a heavy subject documentary that is very thorough, heartbreaking, and a look into the racially charged murder of an unarmed African American teenager who died for no reason at all. The film also informs on a much larger societal and ideological problem that is so ingrained and one which the country still unfortunately carries to this day. Marc Silver opens one’s eyes and follows the case through from beginning to end in an intense, powerful, and highly important film about race and violence. A documentary that should be taken as seriously as the case in question.