Playing Catch-Up With Two Documentaries: 3 1/2 Minutes 10 Bullets and The Wolfpack


312 minutes

3 1/2 Minutes Ten Bullets (Dir by Marc Silver)

On November 23rd, 2012, an SUV pulled up to a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida.  Inside the SUV were four teenage boys, all of whom were black.  A car pulled up next to the SUV.  Inside the car was a man and his girlfriend.  They were both white.

The man was named Michael Dunn and reportedly, he was annoyed by the loud rap music that was being played in the SUV.  He told his girlfriend that he hated “thug music.”  He got out of his car and asked them to turn down the music.  What happened next depends on who you ask.  The driver of the SUV says that he turned down the music but then his friend, Jordan Davis, turned it back up.  Michael Dunn claims that Jordan Davis opened a door and pointed something at him that looked like a shotgun.

What everyone agree on is that Dunn grabbed his own gun and proceeded to fire it into the SUV, killing Jordan Davis.  Everyone also agrees that no shotgun was ever found in the SUV.

Michael Dunn was tried for the murder of Jordan Davis and the attempted murder of the other three teenagers.  Dunn claimed he was acting in self-defense.  He was “standing his ground.”  Dunn’s first murder trial ended in a mistrial.  His second trial ended with his conviction.

3 1/2 Minutes Ten Bullets was filmed during the two trials and it is infuriating.  Though Michael Dunn was not interviewed for the film, we do hear recordings of some of the calls he made to his girlfriend while he was in prison and it is chilling to listen to him as he continues to insist that he did nothing wrong.  Even when confronted by the fact that no shotgun was found in the SUV, Dunn continues to insist that the four teenagers had to have been armed.  After all, he says, they were listening to “thug music!”  If you had any doubt about the type of person Michael Dunn was before watching this documentary and hearing his voice, that doubt will be gone after watching 3 1/2 Minutes.

Even more importantly, 3 1/2 Minutes features extensive interviews with Jordan’s friends and family, all of whom express their sadness and anger with such articulation that it’s impossible not to get infuriated when Dunn and others casually dismisses them as being “thugs.”

3 1/2 Minutes is a powerful and moving documentary that should be seen by anyone who is interested in taking a serious look at race in America.

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The Wolfpack (dir by Crystal Moselle)

I had mixed feelings about The Wolfpack.

On the one hand, The Wolfpack is a fascinating story about seven siblings who — after spending 14 years locked away in a New York apartment — finally start to enter the real world.  Everything that the siblings know about the world, they learned through the movies.  Inside the apartment, they obsessively recreate their favorite movies, with an elaborate production of Pulp Fiction being a definite highlight.  When they go out into the real world, they do so dressed like the characters from Reservoir Dogs.

(Except, of course, for the one time that one of them goes out while dressed like Michael Myers from Halloween.  That leads to some trouble with the authorities…)

Watching these brothers (and one sister) as they talked about their unconventional childhood and as they discovered what the world was like outside of their apartment, it was impossible for me not to be moved.  I was touched by their love for each other and I related to their obsession with the movies.  I hoped that they would survive in the outside world.  I was happy for them but, at the same time, I was scared for them.  I knew that their new opportunities would come with a certain loss of innocence.

At the same time, it frustrated me that less time was spent on the circumstances that led to them never leaving that apartment for 14 years.  Or, perhaps, I should say that it angered me that they didn’t seem to be as angry as I was.  The father was obviously mentally ill and, while it would be easy to just dismiss him as a monster, I couldn’t help but feel that the truth was perhaps a bit more complex.

The Wolfpack is a fascinating documentary and it’s currently available on Netflix!

The African-American Film Critics Association Declares Straight Outta Compton To Be The Best Of 2015!


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Awards season continues!  Earlier today, the African-American Film Critics Association announced their picks for the best of 2015!  They named Straight Outta Compton best picture and gave their best director award to Ryan Coogler for Creed.

Check out all of the awards below!

Best Picture: “Straight Outta Compton” (Universal Pictures)
Best Director: Ryan Coogler – “Creed” (Warner Bros.)
Best Ensemble: “Straight Outta Compton” (Universal Pictures)
Best Actor: Will Smith – “Concussion” (Sony)
Best Actress: Teyonah Parris – “Chi-Raq” (Roadside Attractions)
Best Supporting Actor: Jason Mitchell – “Straight Outta Compton” (Universal Pictures)
Best Supporting Actress: Tessa Thompson – “Creed” (Warner Bros.)
Best Independent Film: “Chi-Raq” (Roadside Attractions)
Best Screenplay: Rick Famuyiwa – “Dope” (Open Road Films)
Breakout Performance: Michael B. Jordan – “Creed” (Warner Bros.)
Best Animation: “The Peanuts Movie” (20th Century Fox)
Best Documentary: “A Ballerina’s Tale” (Sundance Selects)
Best Song: “See You Again” – Furious 7 (Atlantic Records)
Best TV Comedy: “Black-ish” (ABC)
Best TV Drama: “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
Best Cable/New Media TV Show: “Survivor’s Remorse” (Starz)

AAFCA Top Ten Films of 2015:

1. Straight Outta Compton (Universal Pictures)
2. Creed (Warner Bros.)
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.)
4. Beasts of No Nation (Netflix)
5. The Martian (20th Century Fox)
6. 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets (HBO), Dope (Open Road Films)
7. Chi-Raq (Roadside Attractions)
8. Carol (Weinstein Co.)
9. The Big Short (Paramount Pictures)
10.The Danish Girl (Focus Features)

Here’s the 15 Films That Made The Best Documentary Shortlist!


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Today, that Academy announced the 15 semi-finalists for the Best Documentary Feature award.  I’m sad to say that I haven’t seen as many of these as I should have.  However, I am happy to see that both Amy and Going Clear made the shortlist.

(I’m actually a bit surprised to see Going Clear made the cut, considering it’s subject matter.  If Going Clear is nominated, will there be a mass boycott of the Awards by Hollywood Scientologists?  Will this be an Oscar ceremony without Tom Cruise?)

Five of these films will be nominated for Best Documentary in January.

Amy,” On the Corner Films and Universal Music

Best of Enemies,” Sandbar

Cartel Land,” Our Time Projects and The Documentary Group

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” Jigsaw Productions

He Named Me Malala,” Parkes-MacDonald and Little Room

Heart of a Dog,” Canal Street Communications

The Hunting Ground,” Chain Camera Pictures

Listen to Me Marlon,” Passion Pictures

The Look of Silence,” Final Cut for Real

Meru,” Little Monster Films

3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets,” The Filmmaker Fund, Motto Pictures, Lakehouse Films, Actual Films, JustFilms, MacArthur Foundation and Bertha BRITDOC

We Come as Friends,” Adelante Films

What Happened, Miss Simone?,” RadicalMedia and Moxie Firecracker

Where to Invade Next,” Dog Eat Dog Productions

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” Pray for Ukraine Productions