The reason to see Marc Silver’s documentary 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets — about the 2012 shooting of Jordan Davis, a black teenager, by Michael Dunn, a white, middle-aged computer programmer — is to behold the grueling courtroom testimony to which Silver and his crew had direct access. Placing a camera at the back of the Duval County Courthouse and squaring its lens on the witness stand, Silver (Who Is Dayani Cristal?) captures fragments of trembling vulnerability, not only from Davis’s surviving loved ones, but from those affiliated with Dunn as well. In one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gesture, Dunn’s girlfriend of several years, Rhonda Rouer, blows Dunn a kiss as she takes the stand — only to go on to give the testimony that would cement Dunn’s first-degree-murder conviction.
Despite the compelling courtroom footage, Silver fails to provide illuminating supplementary material, instead dispensing standard-issue media summarization (news reports, radio chatter) of the killing and its aftermath. The details of the case — pressing as ever in the wake of such African-American casualties as Michael Brown, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray — are likely to be familiar to viewers: In the parking lot of a Gate gas station in Jacksonville, Dunn and Davis argued over the volume of the music in Davis’s car. Minutes later, the seventeen-year-old was shot.
Though Silver’s non-trial instincts are mostly conventional, his wealth of access — to Dunn’s repugnant phone calls from prison, to Davis’s mourning parents, to the friends who were in the car with Davis during the shooting — is substantial and rewarding. And Silver’s empathy often produces moments of emotional catharsis, as in a jovial conversation in which Davis’s friends and his father weigh Davis’s athletic aptitude in baseball, basketball, and football.
3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets
Directed by Marc Silver
Opens June 19, Village East Cinema