‘3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets’ Examines the Murder of Jordan Davis
On November 23, 2012, Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man, shot and killed black 17-year-old Jordan Russell Davis at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, for the most absurd of reasons: because Davis and his friends were playing loud music.
Nearly three years later, the case is at the center of the documentary 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets, which focuses on Davis’ life before and during the attack, and how Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law played into Dunn’s subsequent murder trial. (The defendant told authorities he fired into the teenager’s vehicle because he thought he saw a weapon; investigators recovered no evidence of firearms or other such items from the scene.)
“I got attacked and I fought back because I didn’t want to be a victim, and now I’m in trouble?” Dunn complains on screen in a taped phone call from jail. “I refused to be a victim, and now I’m incarcerated.”
Director Marc Silver (Who Is Dayani Crystal?) says the complicated intersection of the legal system, white perceptions of black criminality and our nation’s fraught racial history sparked his fascination in the case. “I was really interested in this event that had happened in this tiny amount of time,” he says. “On the one level, through the court system, you would understand what happened during those three-and-a-half minutes in a very pragmatic way. Then [you have] what really happened in those moments on a bigger, more conceptual level.”
The film came about after producer Minette Nelson read Paul Solotaroff’s 2013 Rolling Stone feature about Davis’ death and the history of Stand Your Ground laws, and approached Silver with the idea for the project. The documentarian agreed almost immediately, flying down to Jacksonville in the summer of 2013 to meet Davis’ parents and begin filming. During the nearly nine months of filming, it quickly became clear how this specific incident mirrored other episodes of violence against black Americans — notably the Trayvon Martin case, in which another unarmed black 17-year-old was fatally shot for his perceived “thuggishness” and criminality. (The teen was on his way back from buying candy and iced tea at a local store.)
“As we were recording, there were all these other cases over young black men getting killed for similar reasons — ideas of fear and perception and how are certain people conditioned to have that fear,” Silver says. “Then obviously that answered what really happened during that three-and-a-half minutes. I found that we had this potentially very interesting film where you could look at the forensics of what happened on one level, but then metaphorically what was really going on in America.”