Written by Orville “Kunga” Dread
“Trayvon’s father text me a couple days after it happened,” he said… “I just want to welcome you to a club that none of us want to be in.” – Ron Davis father of Jordan Davis (February 19, 1995- November 23, 2012)
On Friday November 23 2012 at around 7.30pm, Jordan Davis 17, African-American was shot 3 times by Michael Dunn a 47 year old, white American who took a dislike to the loud ‘rap-crap’ music coming from the vehicle Jordan and his friends were sitting in. 7 more shots were fired as Davis’s teenage friends tried, panic-stricken, to make their escape from the Jacksonville petrol station in middle-class suburbia.
3 ½ minutes, Ten bullets (2015), is a groundbreaking, access-all-areas documentary by award-winning director Marc Silver (photo) and is both intrusive and intimate. The critically acclaimed film also provides an insightful look at a justice system many consider to be flawed; in a country which purports to uphold the unalienable rights that all men are created equal, yet it’s a country where a black man is up to *40 times more likely to be shot by police than his white counterpart- (*ProPublica 2014).
“If the facts are against you, then argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If both are against you, put someone else on trial!” – Closing argument of Florida Assistant State Attorney, John Guy.
John Guy the attorney for the state of Florida was also involved in the Trayvon Martin case in a failed attempt to prosecute George Zimmerman; Zimmerman who also felt he had no choice but to defend himself, to stand his ground and to shoot a 17 year old teenager to death. It is this paradox this gripping documentary attempts to scrutinise. How does a man, of apparent good standing, now stand accused of the murder of an unarmed teenager, calmly leave the scene and order a pizza? The film also asks questions of society at large. A society that has been taught to view young Black men as armed, angry and dangerous.
Stand your ground – “A person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself”
The controversial section of that law relates to the fact that there is no “duty to retreat,” meaning that in non-stand your ground states one must, in most cases, “first attempt to get away if he or she is able to do so”.
In Florida the state where the two young men, Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin were both born, in the same month, and ironically linked in very similar and tragic outcomes. there is no such requirement; in fact the shooter is permitted to “stand his or her ground,” when firing in self defense and does not need to flee. Add to this the ruling that the shooter may have had an “honest but mistaken belief,” that the victim had a weapon then one can easily draw parallels with cases still simmering here in the U.K.
The mental image of a belligerent Black ‘man’ in baggy pants and a hooded top may well have been enough to convince the majority white white jury to acquit Zimmerman allowing him to walk free, leaving America, once again, having to confront its uncomfortable history of colonisation and entrenched racism.
But Mark Silver (director) does not judge the system; he leaves that to the viewer. As with his previous critically acclaimed docu-feature Who is Dayani Crystal? (2014), the director skillfully connects quiet moments of reflection, with meticulous focus on the minutia, juxtaposed with the cacophony of media orchestrated debate.
In 2012, reporters from the Tamba Bay Times collated over 200 Stand Your Ground cases across the U.S and found that 15.6 percent of those homicides in which a white person killed a black person were deemed justifiable, compared to about 3.4 percent of homicides in which the perpetrator was black and the victim was white – (WJCT, Rhema Thompson, 2014).
Lucia McBath, the softly-spoken, god fearing mother or Jordan Davis, now turned vehement anti-gun campaigner, has called the Stand Your Ground law as ‘legalised lynching’, feeling it disproportionately targets young black men.
Silver’s film shows very little anger; tears, yes. But what is perhaps most haunting is the, almost child-like nature of Dunn, his ascribed white privilege making it impossible for him to acknowledge any guilt and the almost ‘matter-of-fact’ nature of Jordan’s friends, who despite barely escaping with their lives on that fateful evening as bullets pierced their vehicle and pierced through the body of their friend, seem almost accepting that Black youth in America are viewed a certain way
“Thug is the new ‘N’ word. That’s how ‘they’ be pursuing us now ‘N’ word is out ‘thug’ is in. They don’t want to be seen, (pause), ‘wrong’ so they use ‘thug’ instead of the ‘N’ word”. – Tevin Thompson, friend of Jordan Davis, 3 ½ minutes Ten Bullets.
There are also moments of humor as the young friends reflect upon their friendship with Jordan; joined by the dead boy’s father, Ron Davis a retired Delta airlines employee, they eat burgers and discuss how bad he was at basketball but how he would still want to keep on playing in order to improve, “but he was just too fast for the ball!” – Tevin Thompson. Mr Davis, who has been divorced from Jordan’s mother for a number of years, mentions how Jordan was an athlete and should have done track or baseball. They all agree.
Ron Davis and other fathers have bemoaned the fact that the women are often the voices heard and images portrayed whenever a tragedy such as the death of his son is played out in the media but remains a constant ally as both parents are unified in keeping the memory of their son alive and true. Youth from middle class America, existing far from the stereotypical lexicon of a crime riddled neighborhood, should not be in fear of flying bullets and Silver is careful in showing that these youth who are not from the concrete ghettos of America but from an environment of freshly cut lawns and regular jaunts to the nearby beach still do not escape the maelstrom of America’s racailised myopia.
“When I arrived in Jackosonville Fl, I was struck by how everyone drives everywhere. Hardly anyone walks! These two people just happened to meet at a petrol station and had an argument. An argument which lasted just 3 ½ minutes”. Marc Silver
This is a important and brave film on many levels and is a must watch as it makes America look at itself once again but perhaps more importantly it asks hard questions of the viewer. That initial feeling when faced with a group of young Black teenagers. What is the default emotion?
3 ½ minutes, Ten Bullets is in UK cinemas Now – check your local cinema for details.
The Kush Film Boutique hosted an exclusive screening of the documentary at the Regent Street Cinema – check out a snapshot of our event below:
article by Orvil Kunga / @kungadred – Orvil kunga founder of Welcome to Busseywood and Adrinkra Arts Collective