Tag Archives: blacklivesmatter

Film Review: 3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets (3 ½ Minutes Can Last a Lifetime!)

Written by Orville “Kunga” Dread
04.10.15

 

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“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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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

Film Review: Straight Outta Compton

Written by Jeff Bannis
26.08.15

 

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I’ve got to start by saying that Straight Outta Compton is the best rap film I’ve ever seen. Nothing that has gone before comes as close to capturing the stirring attack on body and brain that rap can deliver. That simple fact explains why this story of seminal rap group, NWA, has been the surprise hit of the summer in the US. It’s likely to do the same sort of business in the UK – the film is an undeniable success on many levels.

The depiction of the group’s formation and first successes are conveyed with so much energy and drive it’s difficult to think of a music film of any genre that comes close. The lead characters, Eazy-E, Dr Dre and Ice Cube are so well cast that anyone familiar with the era will know them without any introduction.

Cube, the group’s lead rapper and lyricist ( O’Shea Jackson Jr) Dre (Corey Hawkins), the musician and producer and Eazy E (Jason Mitchell), who provides the x-ingredient hip hop flavour every great rap group needs (nn) are all established in the film’s tight opening minutes. If this is your first contact with NWA you’ll understand exactly why they’re onscreen. If you know the band already, you won’t be distracted by thoughts about the actor living up the character – they’re each faultless.
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Both Cube and Dre have producer credits, which guaranteed access to NWA’s hits. The challenge was always going to be finding a director who could deliver a film strong enough not to be over-shadowed by the music.

Straight Outta Compton has an immensely cinematic approach, lacing striking visuals in even as the drama gets under way. Director F Gary Gray shows his roots as a cameraman, especially early on, when bikers wheelie past in a slow-motion tracking shot which flows effortlessly into normal speed. As gimmicky as that may sound in words, onscreen it is pulled off with real style and panache. It’s a little signpost to tell you that this is a Compton that you want to know more about – and the film delivers.

That hip hop culture was a newer, more vital version of punk rock is no new idea and the film sensibly avoids directly raising the issue. Inevitably however, comparisons will arise; young people with few resources using music as a means to express themselves, to project their views on the world and maybe even make some money? Hmm. The mission of our protagonists, especially Cube, is to put out “reality rap”  or Gangsta rap to its friends – to talk about the real social and economic problems they were facing as black teenagers. Like earning a living amid the low expectations of schools and employers, or escaping the attention of the repressive and aggressive police.

The significance of the group in their time can be encapsulated in two key things – firstly, their name, Niggaz With Attitudes, caused the media conniptions and the public to break a taboo every time they discussed them. And that was often, because the second thing was the track “Fuck Tha Police” which swept the board in the US and the world.

The FBI banned performance of the song on NWA’s first national tour. All over the country, the group were literally read the Riot Act before going onstage. The Detroit climax of this sequence provides the film’s midpoint and it had the audience at the screening itching to jump to their feet and raise a fist. I can’t recall the last time a mainstream film conveyed such a feeling of feelgood rebellion as this.
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If it’s true that American lives have no third act, someone forgot to tell NWA. The notoriety given by the Fuck Tha Police furore leads to recriminations which threaten their success. The group’s subsequent split and the emergence of Cube and Dre as respectively rap’s best lyricist and producer are drawn well, if with some ellipsis. The film would have flopped without Dre’s involvement – he might not have allowed the use of his music or contributed the sparkling new productions which lift it above others. The upshot was – perhaps – the omission of his horrendous attack on Dee Barnes.

This has been the understandable focus of critics of Straight Outta Compton. The macho world of rap still hasn’t totally accorded women the place they deserve in its hierarchy. Like rock sadly, gangsta isn’t chivalrous. It is a necessary debate around the film. Reality rap needs to really be reality. Suge Knight has to be the centre of evil morality for the film’s second half to have a chance of hanging together as a story. And opting for a narrower focus leads also to excluding the fact that Cube has had, since those days, a woman manager.

Ultimately, Straight Outta Compton is the story of NWA – not just Dr Dre’s story of ugly violence and eventual rehabilitation.

A landscape currently dominated by the #Blacklivesmatter movement however, can draw much strength from NWA’s strident response to police violence. Rap was changed forever by the video of Rodney King and the riots that followed his attackers’ escape from justice.

By then wracked by separation, NWA’s focus was on life as experienced by ghetto youth and their contribution demonstrates how little has changed. Their moment in the spotlight could hardly be more relevant today. It shouldn’t fall to those who will go on to enjoy this as full-blooded entertainment to defend every act of the real-life characters. The performances, the story and the unstoppable music are what Straight Outta Compton is all about.

© 2015 Jeff Bannis
www.Kushfilms.com

Straight Outta Compton in cinemas now