Friday, May 1, 2015

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 7

Two movies last Wednesday night. Let's get right to it.

First up was the documentary 3 AND 1/2 MINUTES, 10 BULLETS (the "10 BULLETS was just added to the title. Probably because jackasses like myself kept making jokes about the running time.) In 2012, Michael Dunn pulled into a gas station in Jacksonvill, FL. While his fiance went in to buy a bottle of wine, he had an altercation with the four young black men in the SUV next to him. A fight over their loud music quickly escalated and Dunn fired 10 shots into the car, killing Jordan Davis. He then claimed self-defense under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. This was, of course, with the Trayvon Martin murder still fresh in people's memories. The filmmakers got amazing access to the court (their camera provided the main news shared footage for the trial) and take a very observational, "fly-on-the-wall" approach to filming. Interviews with Jordan's friends and family are cut with court scenes and the defense lawyer's...let's say "dedicated" approach to raising reasonable doubt. The results of the trial are public record, so I don't have to get into them. What's remarkable is how the film processes the events with an even hand that strives for the humanity in everyone, even Dunn. Easily the most chilling scenes of the movie are recordings of Dunn's calls from prison, where he maintains how ludicrous it is that he's even on trial when he clearly felt threatened by them. And that's what makes this more powerful than just a "scared racist (even subconsciously racist) guy opens fire" story. It's also a story where "Stand Your Ground" has become such a hallowed principle in our society that it's almost blasphemous to point out that retreating is a usually a damn good option (and BTW, nothing in Stand Your Ground laws says that you have to stand your ground.)

Afterwards there was a very moving, powerful discussion led by Noah Cowan and featuring Jordan's mother and a representative from Human Rights Watch, along with the filmmakers.

And then for a change of pace, I caught a Hong Kong police action film, BLACK COAL, THIN ICE. It opens with a particularly gruesome case of body parts cut apart, dispersed, and found in coal stacks all over a 100 mile region. Zhang (Liao Fan) is the lead investigator, and already not doing well as his wife divorces him in the opening scenes. Rather than catching the bad guy he catches a bullet (and two colleague die in the shootout) and we suddenly switch to 5 years later when he's a hopeless drunk and miserable failure as a cop. And then a new case crops up, with echoes of the coal case that destroyed him. And so he investigates, in his clumsy, drunken way. The plot is full of non-sequiturs (like his motorcycle gets randomly stolen...I don't think that was every resolved) including an insane scene of fireworks at the end. Or...I think they were non-sequiturs. I was tired and a bit drunk myself so maybe it didn't make sense because I missed a lot. or maybe it's just a weird, weird movie. In any case...it happened.

Total Running Time: 204 minutes
My Total minutes: 394,470
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