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2015 Florida Film Festival: Jordan Davis Documentary ‘3 1/2 Minutes’ Clears the Case’s Muddy Waters [Review]

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Jordan Davis's mother Lucia McBath campaigning against gun violence after her son's murder. Courtesy of Participant Media.

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 documentary poster

Poster courtesy of Sundance Film Festival and Participant Media.

 

3 1/2 Minutes
Directed and Written by: Marc Silver
Produced by Participant Media, Candescent Films
USA, 2015, 85 minutes
Rated NR

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.

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A Quick Primer on the Team Solving Orange County’s Affordable Housing Crisis

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Orange County’s Housing for All Task Force held its introductory meeting on April 12, 2019 at the Board of County Commissioner Chambers. Photo: Orange County Government.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Orange County faces a growing affordable housing crisis, and Mayor Jerry Demings has taken notice–and action. Shortly after his inauguration, he formed Housing For All, an affordable housing task force to face the challenge head-on.

The Housing For All task force doesn’t meet monthly like the County Commission–in fact, their next meeting won’t be until October 4, 2019–but they do work when they’re not meeting. The task force is made up of three subcommittees, Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee, Accessibility and Opportunity Subcommittee and Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee. These three subcommittees meet twice a month to come up with ideas and plans to fix the affordable housing problem.

Each subcommittee has a specific focus on ways to help solve the problem of affordable housing. The Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee is focused on the design of new affordable housing projects, the renovation of current affordable housing that might need fixing and land development for affordable housing units. The Accessibility and Opportunity Subcommittee is focused on making sure affordable housing is accessible to the major economic zones of the city, develop partnerships with groups and focus on outreach in the county. The Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee is focused on finding ways to increase the supply of affordable housing and how to preserve affordable housing.

At their next meeting in October these subcommittees will update the county on what they have accomplished and what they plan to do in the future. For information from previous Housing for All Task Force meetings or the meeting schedule, visit the Orange County Government website.

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Leyton Blackwell is a photojournalist and Florida National News contributor. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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Opening Biopic ‘Te Ata’ Sets High Bar for 2016 Orlando Film Festival

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ORLANDO: Chickasaw Nation Biopic 'Te Ata' Sets Stage for Orlando Film Festival.

ORLANDO (FNN NEWS) – Orlando Film Festival kicked off at Cobb Theaters in Downtown Orlando Wednesday night. The red carpet came alive with excited filmmakers and actors ready to showcase their projects to the Orlando community and, in some cases, to the world at large, including Nathan Frankowski, director of this year’s opening feature Te Ata.

About Te Ata

Frankowski’s biopic feature chronicles the true story of Chickasaw actress and storyteller Mary Frances Thompson, whose love of stories and the Chickasaw Nation fueled her to share the Chickasaw culture with new audiences in the early 1900s, a time when the United States was still growing as a nation and clashed with Native American peoples in the process.

Viewers are immediately swept into the saga from the film’s opening scene with a voice-over folk tale told by Mary Thompson’s father, T.B. Thompson (played by Gil Birmingham). Ironically, though his storytelling places the seed of inspiration in her, it slowly becomes a source of friction between them as she ages.

What makes the film engrossing is the sprawling backdrop upon which Thompson’s journey takes place. While young Te Ata (which means “The Morning”) flourishes with each solo performance and eventually sets her sights on Broadway, the Chickasaw Nation is fighting to secure the funding due them from the U.S. government in the face of ethnocentrism and religious bigotry–to the point that the government passed a law forbidding the sale of traditional Native American textiles and creations, which caused further financial struggle for the Chickasaw Nation. Viewers even experience the Thompsons’ fish-out-of-water feeling as the Chickasaw people’s territory, Tishomingo, shrinks significantly to become part of the newborn state of Oklahoma.

The political tensions are counterbalanced with Te Ata’s experience. Te Ata does her first performances among family, but chooses to leave home for the first time in her life to attend the Oklahoma College for Women (known today as University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma), despite her father’s wishes for her to find a job at home. Viewers immediately empathize with Te Ata’s awkward experience upon her arrival at the predominantly Caucasian-attended College, but cheer her on when that one connection is made, because all it ever takes is one.

Te Ata’s jumping off point occurs when she meets drama teacher Frances Dinsmore Davis, who encourages her to join her class and to share the Chickasaw stories for her senior presentation instead of the usual Shakespeare recitation. From there, Te Ata’s career blossoms from one serendipitous connection to another, taking her performances across the country. She eventually makes it to New York City, hustling to find her place on Broadway, and finds love in the process while performing privately for Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband was then Governor of New York. The heroine’s journey continues with well-placed highs and lows, keeping the viewer visually and emotionally engaged.

Te Ata is touchingly channeled through lead actress Q’orianka Kilcher who, like Te Ata, has stage experience, and brought it to bear in the role. Kilcher’s magnetic singing, with the help of the film’s sweeping score and indigenous songs, imprints the true Te Ata’s passion for her people onto the viewer’s heart.

Frankowski, who worked closely with the Chickasaw Nation in creating the film, honors Te Ata’s memory and legacy in a cohesive, sweeping tale that will edify audiences everywhere.

 

 

Florida National News Editor Mellissa Thomas is an author and journalist, as well as a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with degrees in Entertainment Business and Film. She also helps business owners, CEOs, executives, and speakers double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book.

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New Solar Co-op Hopes to Shine in Orange County

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (FNN News): Orange County launches solar co-op. Photo: Orange County Govt.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (FNN NEWS) By Orange County Government —Orange County homeowners looking to add solar power to their homes have an opportunity to do so at a discount through a new solar co-op program. The initiative is spearheaded by Orange County Government, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Florida Solar United Neighborhoods (FL SUN), which is a local nonprofit working to organize solar co-ops across the state. According to the Florida Public Service Commission, 11,626 utility customers (less than 1 percent) in Florida have rooftop solar installed. In Florida, these co-ops have worked with nearly 340 homes and businesses across the state.

Above photo (from left): Orange County employees Lori Cunniff and Jon Weiss (both have solar); co-president of the League of Women Voters of Central Florida Sara Isaac; Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Florida Director of FL SUN Angela DeMonbreun

Solar co-ops provide bulk discounts – up to 20 percent – for a group of homeowners who are interested in purchasing solar panels. As part of a solar co-op, citizens benefit from the educational process and each participant signs his or her own contract with the installer, and everyone gets the discount. All homeowners who reside in Orange County are eligible to participate in the co-op.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs officially signed up for the co-op and she’s hoping other residents will consider joining as well.

“This technology is an excellent long-term investment and we’re delighted to invite our residents to participate. The Orange County Solar Co-op is a powerful way to leverage our collective buying power and go solar together,” said Mayor Jacobs. “Florida’s outlook is bright for solar and Orange County’s Co-op can help lead the way.”

The solar co-op supports Jacobs’ goals in her Sustainability Initiative, “Our Home for Life,” which seeks to reduce barriers to alternative energy and increase renewable energy production by 10 percent in 2020 and 25 percent by 2040.

Joining the co-op does not obligate members to purchase panels. After the co-op receives bids from solar installers in the area, members will select one or two companies to perform the installations at a group discount.

The exact price of a PV (photovoltaic) system is dependent on homeowners’ preference in system size and their home’s energy consumption. Additionally, there is a federal tax credit of 30 percent towards installation costs. Homeowners have the option to install the size PV system that fits their budget.

“Experts tell us Florida’s sunshine gives it the potential to be among the top three states in America for solar power, and by joining in solar co-ops Floridians can start planning for the sun to help pay their electric bills,” said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. The League of Women Voters of Florida has partnered with FL SUN and various markets in Florida, including Orange County and St. Petersburg, to promote solar initiatives.

In addition to promoting the solar co-op to residents, Orange County is encouraging its more than 7,500 employees to consider signing up.

East Orlando resident Jon Weiss, director of Orange County’s Community, Environmental and Development Services department, is one employee who already participated in a solar co-op and had solar installed in May of this year.

“The co-op really helped us understand the solar project costs and benefits. I realized the questions I had were the same ones that my neighbors had, and I had confidence in the information provided by the contractor selected by the co-op.” said Weiss. “We sized the system to match our budget, and are very pleased with the savings on our power bill. Our up-front investment should be recouped within the next five to six years.”

In considering going solar, Weiss suggests that your home’s roof be in relatively good condition as the panels can last 20-25 years.

Orange County has a goal to obtain 500 participants in the co-op program with 30 percent of the residents opting to Go SOLAR. The co-op deadline to sign up is December 2016. Orange County is sponsoring Community Power Network and FL SUN, 501(c)(3) non-profits, to provide technical assistance to neighborhood solar co-ops at no charge to participants.

“I am excited to work with Orange County residents to educate them about the benefits of solar energy,” said FL SUN Co-op State Director Angela DeMonbreun. “If you’ve ever thought about going solar before, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. We have established that this model works in Orange County and in other states.”

FL SUN expands access to solar by educating Florida residents about the benefits of distributed solar energy, helping them organize group solar installations, and strengthening Florida’s solar policies and its community of solar supporters. Grants from Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Barancik Foundation and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy broadly support FL SUN’s work.

As part of the Go SOLAR Florida initiative, Orange County and other partners have worked to streamline the permitting process for solar installations. Now solar permits in the county can be processed in a single day on a walk-through basis. Also, use of one of the standard designs that have been pre-approved by the Florida Solar Energy Center can save additional time and money.

To learn more and register for an information session, visit www.flsun.org/orange-county or email solarteam@flsun.org. Upcoming information sessions are as follows:

· Aug. 22 from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at the Orange County Agricultural Extension Office located at 6021 S. Conway Road in Orlando.

· Aug. 23 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Meadow Woods Recreation Center located at 1751 Rhode Island Woods Circle in Orlando.

· Aug. 24 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the First Unitarian Church located at 1901 E. Robinson Street in Orlando.

Additional meetings will be scheduled as well, so visit www.flsun.org/orange-county for listings.

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