One of the many reasons I love cinema is that it has an ability to not only entertain, but also to vividly reveal truths that enlighten and resonate with audiences long after the credits have finished rolling. Not many films do this. In fact, most do not. However, luckily, I was able to view a couple of films at the BronzeLens Film Festival that did fit that description. Without a doubt, the strongest film (that I saw) at the BLFF was 3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets.
If you have been paying attention to the news in the last few years, you may remember the story of Jordan Davis. He was (yet another) young African-American teenager who was unjustly shot and killed in Jacksonville, Florida. In Davis’s case, his life was taken after a verbal exchange with 47-year-old Michael Dunn about loud rap music.
As always, I’m not here to give spoilers – only a heads up. Although it is a documentary and the outcome is already widely known, there are elements of the film that could only be translated through what is essentially a behind-the-scenes look. Let’s watch the trailer:
On a technical level, this film succeeds with its careful, compelling edits and beautifully melancholy selection of B roll. From a long shot of Davis’s father visiting his son’s grave to shots of droplets of rain on side view mirrors, 3 ½ Minutes speaks volumes even in its most quiet moments.
When it comes to his use of courtroom testimony footage, director Marc Silver succeeds where mainstream media often fails: he depicts Davis and his friends as teenagers. Silver never paints the teens as unrealistic, flawless saints, but as a group of basically good kids who behave as teenagers sometimes do. Additionally, Silver expertly exposes the biases of Davis’s killer. This is another area in which the director succeeds where the mainstream media nearly always fails.
BronzeLens screened this film as a part of what they called Social Justice Sunday. This session included a screening of the film as well as a discussion directly after with Attorney Mawuli Mel Davis and Jordan Davis’s mother, Lucia McBath, and uncle. Seeing Davis’s mother in the film absolutely made the experience more tangible, but hearing her feedback in person made the reality of her son’s case that much more heartbreakingly real.
In addition to being a visually pleasing film, 3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets gave me what I crave from every film I watch: it enlightened me on a number of things and it is still resonating with me nearly two weeks after seeing it.
3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets airs on HBO on Monday, November 23 at 9 PM.
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– Khylen Steward, CBS Local