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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #10: Why ‘3 ½ Minutes’ Couldn’t Be More Relevant

Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #10: Why '3 ½ Minutes' Couldn't Be More Relevant

In the wake of the grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, the Sundance Film Festival premiere of Marc Silver’s latest documentary, “3 ½ Minutes,” couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time — at the beginning of a new year, a time when public discourse might be inclined to shelve difficult conversations from the year past. With “3 ½ Minutes,” Silver doesn’t ask to extend the discussion about institutional racism and the United States judicial system, he demands us to participate.

What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?
“3 ½ Minutes” dissects the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, the aftermath of this systemic tragedy and contradictions within the American criminal justice system.

Now what’s it really about?
On Black Friday 2012, four middle-class African-American law-abiding teenagers stopped at a gas station to buy gum and cigarettes. One of them, Jordan Davis, argued with Michael Dunn, a white man parked beside them, over the volume of music playing in their car. The altercation turned to tragedy when Dunn fired 10 bullets at the unarmed boys, killing Davis almost instantly. The seamlessly constructed, riveting documentary film 3½ Minutes explores the danger and subjectivity of Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense laws by weaving Dunn’s trial with a chorus of citizen and pundit opinions, and with Jordan Davis’s parents’ wrenching experiences in and out of the courtroom. While Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown’s stories join a wretched, enduring cycle in the American social narrative, 3½ Minutes portrays Davis’s murder and its aftermath as anything but generic. Instead, the intimate camera particularizes each character as singular, as if to say: The more we see each other as human beings, the less inevitable will be violent outcomes from racial bias and disparate cultures colliding.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
I work as a worldwide as a filmmaker, director of photography and social impact strategist. My first feature length film “Who is Dayani Cristal?” premiered at the Sundance Festival 2013 where it won Cinematography Award: World Cinema Documentary and the Amnesty International Best Documentary award 2014. 
What was the biggest challenge in completing this film?
It is inevitably a challenge to enter into a family’s life at a time where they are suffering such irreversible loss. But meeting Ron and Lucy was very humbling – they were parenting Jordan even in his death and were fighting for justice with such dignity. They were so open and realized that although the film is about the life and death of their son, it speaks to the unjust deaths of many other people in America.
What do you want Sundance audiences to take away from your film?
I have no doubt there are many people who see black men as Michael Dunn (Jordan’s killer) sees black men. And this perception is based on a combination of ignorance, stereotype and bias which ultimately is dehumazing. This isn’t about a ‘few bad apples’ – this is about a country that was built on racism, that values whiteness above blackness.
I believe the film will inspire audiences to consider their own implicit or express biases, which in turn might make them reconsider the proliferation of Stand Your Ground laws which are based on perceived threats.
What’s next?
I am currently working on a new film about ayahuasca, neuroscience and global drug policy. I am Creative Director of The Filmmaker Fund.
Did you crowdfund? If so, via what platform? If not, why?
No … We sought funding from elsewhere.
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.

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