'3 1/2': Film Review

3 1/2 Minutes
Courtesy of Sundance International Film Festival
Heartbreaking documentary on controversial Florida shooting

Provocative documentary on Florida's controversial stand-your-ground law

It was known as the “Loud Music Trial,” but centered on Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law.  In this horrific case, a middle-aged white male shot and killed a black teenager during a gas-station parking lot confrontation. Things escalated when Michael Dunn implored the teens to turn down their rap music. The awful result was that a teenage boy, Jordan Davis, ended up dead.

In a Rashomon structure, filmmaker Marc Silver sagely constructs the story from the varying viewpoints. We get to know the circumstances and both families: The son of loving middle-class parents, Davis was a well-liked middle-class teen; Dunn was a solid citizen, engaged and returning from a wedding that fatal day. It nonetheless emerges as a lose-lose tragedy — the boy died and ultimately the man was sentenced to life plus 90. 

This well-constructed, thoughtful documentary could be used as an instructional aide in criminal justice courses, ethics courses, as well as law-enforcement agencies. The verdict once again centers on Florida’s much-debated law. In the second jury trial (the first was a mistrial), the jurors interpreted that the stand-your-ground law does not allow a person threatened to necessarily kill his or her assailant.  In this instance, the jury determined that Dunn had exceeded his right to defend himself and did not avail himself of all avenues to defuse the situation.

It’s sobering and heart-wrenching. There are no bad people in this story; there are differing viewpoints, in part shaped by different ages and cultures. Ultimately, it all comes down to a horrific 3/12 seconds in the lives of people out on an otherwise pleasant Sunday afternoon.

A The Filmmaker Fund/Motto Pictures production

In association with Lakehouse Films and Actual Films

Director/Cinematographer:  Marc Silver

Producers: Minette Nelson, Carolyn Hepburn

Executive Producers: Orland Bagwell, Bonni Cohen, Julie Goldman, Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann

Editors: Emiliano Battista, Gideon Gold

No Rating. 98 minutes