by Mellissa Thomas
Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter L. Scott, Jordan Davis—these young men’s names are forever etched in the American consciousness for their unjust deaths by police officers’ hands. However, while the public could only ever assess each case based on what the news media released and was at the mercy of its bias, feature documentary 3 1/2 Minutes presents the Jordan Davis murder trial with a much wider lens.
Why This is a Must-See
3 1/2 Minutes
Directed and Written by: Marc Silver
Produced by Participant Media, Candescent Films
USA, 2015, 85 minutes
The movie provides not only the family’s side of the story, which most are familiar with thanks to Lucia McBath’s extensive media campaign and political activism on her murdered son’s behalf, but the three other friends who were in the car with Jordan; Michael Dunn’s fiancee Rhonda Rouer; and footage of Dunn himself—on the witness stand, on the phone with Rouer, and in police interrogation.
“I didn’t want to see Marc [Silver] to include Dunn’s footage in the film,” Jordan’s father Ron Davis admitted during Q&A after the 2015 Florida Film Festival screening Saturday. “…But Marc said, ‘No, Ron…the people need to see both sides, they need to see the whole truth and decide for themselves.’” Thanks to the film, anyone curious about Dunn learns more about his state of mind and where his loyalties lie from his own lips.
However, the film also sheds more light on Ron Davis, his bond with his only son, and the loving warnings he gave him about dealing with adults, especially after the Trayvon Martin murder. “Hey, Dad, we actually kind of look alike,” Jordan had ironically observed when Martin was killed and the now infamous hoodie photo was initially released.
3 1/2 Minutes is a pulse-pounding ride placing you right in the courtroom, in the midst of the awkward silences, hard blinks, tears, trembling hands, stonefaced replies, and grueling cross examinations from attorneys, who seem perpetually angry throughout the trial. This would make for an excellent courtroom drama novel or made-for-TV movie if it were not so harrowingly real.
The Silver Lining
Ron Davis shared one plus in this family’s tragic story Saturday: the documentary’s increasing reach. Documentaries are among the most difficult movies to find funding for, but 3 1/2 Minutes was powered in part by Jeff Skoll’s socially conscious powerhouse Participant Media (which also produced Al Gore’s Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth), and as Ron Davis revealed, it was picked up by HBO to air in the fall after its screening at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
In the end, millions of eyes will see the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, which is exactly what Director Marc Silver wanted in the first place.
This documentary gets (and deserves) the 5 stars it has earned in the wake of this avoidable tragedy.