Jordan Davis couldn’t play basketball. He lived in the suburbs of Jacksonville, FL. His best friend had a pet iguana. He and his friends were typical teenagers: shopping at the mall for fitteds and kicks, trying to meet girls, rapping in ciphers. “Our struggle is gas money,” says one.
Jordan Davis was a real live American boy, with an open face, anchored by a dazzling smile. He lived with swag, vitality, and promise.
And yet, to Michael Dunn on November 23, 2012, Jordan Davis was a threat, playing “that thug music,” and not turning it down. Jordan Davis jarred Dunn so much, that the 45-year-old software engineer shot into a parked vehicle at a gas station ten times – even when it retreated. Dunn said that he saw a shotgun in the back window of the truck Jordan Davis was in, but no weapon of any kind was ever found.
Jordan Davis lost his life that day, and Dunn sought to justify his actions using Florida’s oft-criticized “Stand Your Ground” law, which, in February of that same year, factored into the trial of another White dude who shot and killed an unarmed 17-year-old. That boy’s name was Trayvon Martin.
Marc Silver’s documentary, 3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets, shows what Jordan Davis’s parents, friends, and community went through during the time between his shooting death and Dunn’s trial. It is as meticulous in its detail as it is visually rich, with muted close-ups that get to the heart of the tragic story. The film begins with what Jordan Davis’ friends call “the incident” and ends with justice (finally, mercifully) being served.
“Marc Silver, the way he did it, it wasn’t intrusive,” said Ron Davis, Jordan’s father, to NewsOne at a New York City screening of the film. “If he didn’t get his shot, he didn’t stop us and say, ‘I didn’t get my shot,’ he would just keep filming.”
A large part of 3 ½ Minutes focuses on Davis’ parents: his father Ron, and his mother, Lucia McBath, who never faltered in the pursuit of justice for their son. Silver expertly slips into their lives as they mourn Jordan, their grief shown in ways profound and mundane: a close-up of McBath’s hands, twisted in prayer or wringing in pain, or sadly applying her makeup. Bowed, but not broken.
The film also shines a light on Michael Dunn, so apparently clueless in his virulent racism as to almost be unbelievable (his affection for his puppy “Charlie,” juxtaposed with the lack of remorse for the child he killed, is chilling). The film underscores Dunn’s incredible arrogance by showing it coming from his own mouth. You hear him spewing stereotypes in taped calls from jail, saying things like, “Where’s their dads?” or “Maybe he would’ve killed somebody if it hadn’t been me.”
“Michael Dunn was such an unlikable person,” confirms Ron Davis. “No one could identify with Michael Dunn. He’s a blatant liar. Said he saw kids in an SUV with shotguns, it never happened. So it was a perfect storm with that and that’s why we got an indictment. Had that been a cop that did it, we may not have gotten justice.”
“I hope this (film) wakes up this country and lets them know that our lives matter, Black lives matter, brown lives do matter, and they need to pay attention to the way the justice system is set up against us,” continues Ron Davis. “In this court, with all the evidence we had, with all the witnesses we had, we were able to get justice for Jordan. But many people don’t have that.”
3 ½ Minutes will premiere on HBO in Fall 2015.
For screenings this summer, many of which include Q&As with Ron Davis, go to the 3 1/2 Minutes site. The next one is in Los Angeles on June 26.