Perhaps you’ve marched and rallied in the various #BlackLivesMatters protests over the past several years, or you’re possibly connected to the thousands of gun violence victims and their families. Maybe you’ve watched the stories on television and read about them in the newspapers or on the Internet. Whatever your involvement, surely Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and Jordan Davis’ names mean something to you.
For Jordan Davis’ parents especially, his name meant everything. “3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets” is Jordan Davis’ story, it’s a heartbreaking tale of two parents desperately seeking justice for their child. In 2012 on Black Friday, Jordan Davis was in a parking lot with two friends waiting for a third to come out of a gas station. The boys were relaxing in the car, blasting their music, and enjoying the early evening in Jacksonville, Florida. A white man named Michael Dunn decided that their music was too loud for him. Words were said, and 3 1/2 minutes later, Jordan Davis was dead.
The film opens with Jordan’s parents, Ron Davis and Lucia “Lucy” McBath, discussing how they choose his name and moves through Michael Dunn’s murder trial, as the duo ban together to seek justice for their baby boy, who will be eternally 17 years old. As if we were sitting in the courtroom ourselves, the audience becomes privy to inside information about the case. From very small details, like the time Davis last spoke to his girlfriend to Dunn’s phone calls from prison to his fiancée, everything is slowly revealed. The audience hears from Davis’ girlfriend, and the boys who were there on his last day. We learn who he was; that he was a terrible basketball player and a sharp dresser, and we get the smallest glimpses of the man he might have become. Davis was extremely close to his father, he was funny, loved, and outspoken. Throughout the film Jordan Davis speaks directly to us, and we listen because his parents demand that he be heard.
Much of the film felt very much like an episode of “First 48” or another reality crime program. Jordan’s last moments become reduced to the things he did that day, to the clothes he was wearing, and what he allegedly said. It’s a film that is not only deeply rooted in race, but also grounded in gun violence and Florida’s absurd “stand your ground” laws. It’s about this law’s inability to work properly within our system. After all, it’s absurd and impossible to try and determine what another human being is thinking.
It’s an agonizingly difficult film to watch. There are small moments; quiet ones of Jordan’s parents sobbing or praying, alone mostly, but sometimes together. Their pain is immeasurable; nearly unbearable to witness and more inconceivable to experience. And yet, because they press forward for weeks and months and years, you feel compelled to do so as well. The camera is there as Dunn is given the verdict regarding Davis’ murder. As if you were present, you’ll feel desperate for the trail to come to end and determined to find justice.
More than seeking answers, “3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets” sparks so many questions. It reminds us of what is broken in our country. It brings up questions of privilege as well as the constant, vicious, deeply rooted, fear and hatred, that many white people in this country still feel towards people of color. It is a film that invites questions surrounding the media and how narratives and people’s characters can be shifted and mangled in certain ways.
Only one generation out of Jim Crow, it reminds us once again that Black and brown children aren’t afforded the carefree days of youth. They aren’t allowed to just "be" teenagers. And yet, in all of this devastating pain, loss and heartbreak, this is a film that demands that we speak loudly and earnestly not just for the Trayvons and Jordans and the thousands like them, but for their families who have continued to go on and allow us into their children’s lives and hearts. We must not just simply remember, we must stand up and demand our humanity. If we don’t, we’ve let Jordan Davis down and after seeing, “3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets” that is the last thing that you will want to do.
“3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets” will air Monday, November 23rd at 9PM ET on HBO.
Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightram