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Interviews
UserpicMother of Jordan Davis Reflects upon the Loss of Her Son
Posted by Kam Williams
16.06.2015

Lucy McBath
The “3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets” Interview
with Kam Williams

Lucy McBath is the mother of Jordan Davis, the unarmed teenager gunned down at a Florida gas station for refusing to turn down the radio which was playing loud rap music. Although Jordan's murderer, Michael Dunn, has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the crime, Lucy has remained a very vocal advocate on behalf of all victims of such violence.

Here, she reminisces about Jordan while discussing 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets, a documentary chronicling the trial of her son's killer. She also discusses her commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement and to pressuring the criminal justice system to hold all violators of black civil rights accountable.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Lucy, thanks for the interview.

Lucy McBath: Thank you, Kam. I'm glad we're able to connect.

 

KW: 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets was a very powerful film. What did you think of it?

LM: I'm extremely pleased because it's truthful and it does the very thing we wanted, which is impact people. It's been very, very well received, particularly among people who never spent much time thinking about the issues of racism and biases and guns and violence. They see how we're all related dynamically to my story in some way, because it's everybody's story.

 

KW: What interested you in participating in this documentary?

LM: I'm a product of the Civil Rights Era. My father was a Civil Rights leader. So, I understood the power and authenticity of being able to move people for a cause. I felt that this would be one of the most effective ways to reach the largest possible audience and to prick their conscience and to get them to open their homes and communities to discussions about gun violence and race. This gives us a chance to reach more people than we'd ever be able to just in our own communities.

 

KW: Editor Jaymie Cain notes that you went to grammar school in her hometown of Joliet, Illinois.

LM: Yes, that's where I was born and raised. And I still have cousins who reside there.

KW: She's wondering whether you filed a civil lawsuit against your son's killer, Michael Dunn.

LM: Yes, we did.

 

KW: How would you describe Jordan in 25 words or less?

LM: Fun-loving, intuitive, spiritual and humorous... [Chuckles] He was always playing jokes, yet he was also really concerned about others, especially people who had less than he had, and people who who didn't have the opportunities that he had.

 

KW: What was it like to not only lose your son, but to have to grieve in the national spotlight, and at a time you were also battling breast cancer?

LM: It was extremely, extremely difficult. I had to deal with my son being murdered as well as my health, and have it all played out in the media. But I understood the inherent importance of what we were doing, and that I would have to put aside all of my ills and my “isms” because what God was doing was much greater than Jordan, and that Jordan's life was serving as a catalyst for change. So, I had to put aside what was uncomfortable for me to do what I needed to do.

 

KW: Have you bonded with any of the other parents of other unarmed young blacks killed by whites in recent years?

LM: Absolutely! I'm good friends with Sybrina Fulton [Trayvon Martin's mother]. Just recently, I spent some time with Michael Brown's mother [Leslie McSpadden]. I've met Eric Garner's mother [Gwen Carr] and Tamir Rice's mother [Samaria Rice], too. Every year in Miami, Sybrina hosts what she calls “The Circle of Mothers.” Along the way, I've had a chance to meet quite a few other mothers who are grieving over the murders of their children, many of whose cases never garnered national attention.

 

KW: Do you see a psychological difference in yourself from them, since you're the only mother whose son's killer was convicted of murder.

LM: In that regard, I'm kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. Just because we've received justice, doesn't mean that we don't care about everyone who hasn't. It actually makes us even more passionate because we know that justice can be done. We wanted to set a precedent in the justice system to give a sense of hope to our people. We have to care about what's happening in our community. We have to care about the other mothers and fathers who have never received justice for their loved ones. So, we feel very responsible to continue to stand and fight the system with our heads high for the rest of our lives, if necessary, until we create the changes necessary for everyone to receive justice.

 

KW: Is there one widespread misconception about Jordan that you'd like to correct for the record?

LM: Yeah, Jordan was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Because it happened in Florida, everybody thinks Jordan was from there. But he has a whole history in Georgia. His church friends... his home school group... the church school group... The whole essence of who Jordan is, is because of Atlanta. That's what I want people to know.

 

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to Jordan's childhood?

LM: Very much so. He was very heavily involved in his youth group. He would go on the spiritual retreats our church would have for the children. And when he was very young, I was a flight attendant,and my church family and other single-moms would come together and take care of him if I had to work, so he wouldn't miss a beat. He was very enthusiastic about attending the children's service. He would scream, “Come on mom, I don't want to be late.” I was just so happy that, at an early age, he had found God for himself, and had his own personal relationship with God.

 

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What message do you want people to take away from 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets?

LM: I want people to think about more than just themselves. I want them to think about what's happening in the country, dynamically, in terms of racism and fear and guns and violence. And if you don't condone what's going on, I'd like you to ask yourself what you're going to do about it. In what small way can you contribute to make sure everyone's human and civil rights are respected. We all have a responsibility to be each other's keepers. If we don't, we're going to begin to fall as a nation, and you'll see us completely begin to dismantle ourselves.

 

KW: Patricia also asks: What do you think should be done regarding gun control laws to make sure that weapons do not get into the hands of the wrong people?

LM: Because of the Black Market, I realize we're not going to be able to take all the guns off the street. But that doesn't mean that we can't work with our legislators to change the laws so that they're not so expansive and allow people to use their guns any way they want to as vigilantes and self-appointed sheriffs. Having representatives meet the families of the victims of gun violence is extremely impactful, because our legislators need to be reminded that they are accountable to their constituents and must work to keep their communities safe

 

KW: Why do you think Michael Dunn was convicted while George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin?

LM: I think the problem with Trayvon's case was that he was demonized from the very beginning. And because he was dead, there was no one to refute what the shooter said. In our case, we had his friends and other witnesses who could testify. And if it weren't for a stranger, Sean Atkins, who reported Michael Dunn's license plate before he fled the scene, he might never have even been arrested.

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: I hope I am not invading your private grieving, but are you willing to address what changes you'd like to see in society so that Jordan would not have died in vain.

LM: I'd believe how we look at race in this country, systemically, how people are allowed to use guns, and how police brutality plays into gun violence all need to be addressed. And all these issues are interconnected and interrelated. You cannot solve one without the others.

 

KW: David Roth says: I'm so sorry for your loss, and I'm also sorry for our society. Without excusing Michael Dunn's sociopathic overreaction, I wonder whether you ever find yourself wishing Jordan and his friends had simply turned down the radio when they were asked? Did the evidence in the case suggest that such a response would have avoided provoking an insane, deadly response?

LM: If they had “obeyed” his wishes and turned downed down the music, yes, Jordan probably would be alive today. But I don't dwell on that because Jordan had been raised to care about and champion the underdog's freedoms and riots. And that's exactly what he was doing. He gave his life caring about others. They weren't doing anything other than exercising his rights. He was doing exactly what he'd been taught in terms of caring about others.

 

KW: Editor Marilyn Marshall asks: What advice should parents of young black males give them about the dangers they face in society?

LM: What we taught Jordan was: We do not want you to live in fear, however, you must protect yourself. You must be aware of your surroundings and who you spend time with, and you must understand that, as a young black male, people will make assumptions about you without even knowing you. I even had a big discussion with Jordan after the killing of Trayvon Martin, warning him that people no longer use reasonable convict resolution nowadays. That they will just take out their guns and shoot you. I remember saying to him, “Jordan, sweetie, you've got to be careful, because someone might shoot you rather than try to revolve a conflict peacefully.” He said, “No, mom, that's not going to happen to me. I'm going to be okay.” It tears my heart apart whenever I reflect upon that conversation because I was foreshadowing my own child's demise.

 

KW: Marilyn has a follow-up: How would you like Jordan to be remembered?

LM: I want him to be remembered as a young man who was very loving. He loved God; he loved his friends; and he was very inclusive, trying to bring all different types of people together. And he surrounded himself with kids who had a heart like his. I really believe that if Jordan had been allowed to live out his life here on Earth, he would have become a civil activist creating change out in the community. And now, I've become that very thing that I saw in my own son.

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

LM: I see my father. I understand his work so much better now. He was the president of the Illinois branch of the NAACP for over 20 years. As a child, it had been hard for me to appreciate his commitment to justice for our people. Today, I finally understand his drive since that's all I think about day and night, and with every fiber of my being, because I know it matters.

 

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

LM: That we could live here in the United States, a nation of immigrants, as God intended us to live.

 

KW: If you could have a chance to speak with Jordan what would you say?

KB: [Long pause] I understand why you're not here, sweetie... [While weeping] And I accept it, because I know that you were here for this short period of time for a greater purpose. Despite my selfish desire to have you here because you're my son and because I love you, I understand that God had to call you home because you were needed for a larger purpose. I hope that I was the mother that you needed me to be. I want you to know that I am doing well and that I need you to continue to give me the strength to now be the mother to other sons.

 

KW: My sincerest condolences on your loss, Lucy, and best of luck in your mission to make sure Jordan didn't die in vain.

LM: Thank you, Kam, for taking an interest and for helping us make a change. We really appreciate that.

 

To see a trailer for 3½ Minutes,Ten Bullets, visit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGl1IwNwSgo

 

    


3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets
Film Review by Kam Williams

On November 23, 2012, 45 year-old Michael Dunn attended his son's wedding in Jacksonville, Florida with his girlfriend Rhonda. After the reception, the couple stopped at a gas station where they pulled in next to a red Dodge Durango blasting rap music.

Dunn asked the teenagers sitting inside to lower the volume. When they refused, a heated exchange ensued. According to Dunn, one of them in the back seat opened the door and leveled a shotgun directly at him. So, in fear for his own life, he pulled out his own pistol and emptied it into the car, mortally wounding 17 year-old Jordan Davis.

Instead of immediately calling the police, Dunn fled the scene. But he was eventually apprehended with the help of a bystander who had scribbled down his license plate number and reported it to the authorities.

The trial drew nation attention because it revolved around another incident involving the shooting of an unarmed, young black male by a white man in Florida where trigger-happy aggressors tend to avoid prosecution by relying on a Stand Your Ground rationale. Why just the year before, George Zimmerman had successfully invoked the statute as giving him the right to ignore a 911 operator's explicit order to stay in his car and not pursue Trayvon Martin.

Thus, the burning question in this instance became whether Dunn might also somehow prevail in the face of damning testimony from Jordan's three friends who survived the attack that none of them had threatened Dunn and that there was no gun in the Durango.

Furthermore, Jordan couldn't have opened the back door even if he wanted to, since the car's kid- proof lock would have prevented him. And the icing on the cake was that Dunn's own girlfriend would testify for the prosecution, admitting that he fabricated a bunch of alibis after the fact, like the claim that Jordan had brandished a weapon.

Still, to be found not guilty, all Dunn needed to do was convince the jury that his fears were well-founded and that his response was reasonable. But because it was also clear that Jordan and his friends had not broken the law, the case would ostensibly serve as a test of whether black lives mattered in the eyes of the supposedly colorblind criminal justice system.

Directed by Marc Silver, 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets is a powerful documentary revisiting the critical issues in the landmark legal proceeding. Besides painstakingly examining the evidence, the picture devotes considerable time to humanizing Jordan Davis via a combination of home movies and heartfelt reminiscences by his parents and friends.

A riveting courtroom drama chronicling an emotionally-draining showdown played out on the national stage between the Black Lives Matter and Stand Your Ground movements.

Excellent (4 Stars)

Unrated

Running time: 85 minutes

Studio: Candescent Films Distributor: Participant Media

To see a trailer for 3½ Minutes,Ten Bullets, visit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGl1IwNwSgo

    


Reviews
UserpicSelf-Reverential Sequel Revives Prehistoric Horror Franchise
Posted by Kam Williams
14.06.2015

Jurassic World
Film Review by Kam Williams

How do you revive an expiring film franchise that was ostensibly put out of its misery over a dozen years ago after audiences became jaded with over-saturated visual effects they no longer found spellbinding? In the case of Jurassic World, you mount a self-reverential sequel laced with allusions to earlier episodes in which you even go so far as to point out how dinosaurs don't capture people's imaginations to the degree they once used to.

This is the fourth installment in the sci-fi series based on novels by the late Michael Crichton. Jurassics 1 and 2 were directed by Steven Spielberg and adapted from a couple of Crichton's best-sellers (“Jurassic Park” and “The Lost World”). Jurassic 4's creative team includes director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) and a quartet of writers who came up with a script which basically remains faithful to the feeling of the source material.

The story revolves around siblings Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray Mitchell's (Ty Simpkins) Christmas vacation gone bad off the coast of Costa Rica. As the film unfolds, the adventuresome adolescents bid their folks a fond farewell, but not before their prophetic mother (Judy Greer) shares an ominous piece of parental advice:, “Remember, if something chases you, run!”

You see, they're headed to Isla Nublar, the same tropical resort where, in Jurassic 1, raptors ran amok during the christening of a dino-themed amusement park. Today, the place has been renamed “Jurassic World” and it's set to reopen under management just as greedy and inept as in the original, a deadly combination.

Helicopter mom Karen Mitchell isn't all that worried about her sons' welfare since she assumes they'll be under the watchful eye of her sister (Bryce Dallas Howard), the theme park's operations manager. However, upon their arrival, instead of spending quality time with the nephews she hasn't seen in seven years, Claire issues them a VIP all-access pass.

Their subsequent roaming around the premises in a gyro-sphere made of bulletproof glass inconveniently coincides with the escape from containment of Indominus Rex, a prehistoric hybrid bred in a test tube. Unfortunately, no one in a position of authority is inclined to destroy the creature before it goes on a rampage: not its mad scientist inventor (BD Wong), not the war profiteer (Vincent D'Onofrio) with secret plans to sell it to the military, and not Jurassic World's avaricious owner (Irrfan Khan).

This not only means that each of these dastardly villains will have to get their comeuppance but also that thousands of tourists will have to run for their lives. Most importantly, Aunt Claire must search for her nephews with the help of a chivalrous love interest (Chris Pratt). Overall, a riveting roller coaster ride with eye-popping effects and a satisfying resolution.

Still, not quite a Spielberg-quality blockbuster, but it'll do.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for peril and intense violence

Running time: 124 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures

To see a trailer for Jurassic World , visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFinNxS5KN4

    


Reviews
UserpicBoys Befriend Ailing Classmate in Bittersweet Bildungsroman
Posted by Kam Williams
12.06.2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Film Review by Kam Williams

High school seniors Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) and Earl Johnson (RJ Cyler) are not only best friends, they're each other's only friend, unless an empathetic history teacher counts. Mr. McCarthy (Jon Bernthal) has taken pity on the pair, letting them eat their lunch in his office to spare them the humiliation of being teased in the cafeteria on a daily basis .

Terminally-insecure Greg rationalizes their “carefully-cultivated invisibility” with the insight that, “Hot girls destroy your life.” So, instead of looking for love, the ostracized social zeros spend most of their free time shooting clownish parodies of memorable screen classics. But the 42 spoofs, sporting titles like “Eyes Wide Butt,” “A Sockwork Orange,” “Brew Velvet,” “A Box of Lips... Wow!” and “2:48 PM Cowboy,” suffer from such low-production values, that the amateur filmmakers are too embarrassed to share them with anybody.

At the start of the semester, we find Greg being pressured by his mother (Connie Britton) to visit the suddenly cancer-stricken daughter of one of her girlfriends (Molly Shannon). He agrees to do so rather reluctantly because he barely knows Rachel (Olivia Cooke), even though, until recently, she also attended Schenley High.

However, the two soon hit off, since they're both artsy types given to an ingratiating combination of introspection and gallows humor. Greg returns to her house again and again, doing his best to prop up her spirits during a valiant battle with leukemia in which she loses her strength and her hair as a consequence of chemotherapy.

Eventually, he enlists the assistance of his BFF in making their first documentary, a biopic dedicated to the now bed-ridden Rachel. Throwing himself into the project with an admirable zeal, he marks the production with meaningful touches like get well wishes from the patient's family and friends, including his own repeated assurances that she's going to beat the disease. The only problem is that the attention paid to Rachel leaves little time for academics; and Greg's plummeting grades have a negative effect on his college prospects.

Adapted from the Jesse Andrews young adult novel of the same name, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a bittersweet coming-of-age adventure directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (The Town That Dreaded Sundown). The film was very warmly received at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year where it landed both the Audience and Grand Jury Awards.

A refreshingly exhilarating, emotional and ultimately uplifting examination of youngsters forging an unbreakable bond in the face of a malignant force far beyond their control.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, drug use and mature themes

Running time: 104 minutes

Distributor: Fox Searchlight

To see a trailer for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qfmAllbYC8

    


Farewell, Herr Schwarz
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Although Yael Reuveny was born in Israel 35 years after the end of World War II, her formative years were nevertheless substantially shaped by events that had transpired half a world away during the Holocaust. For, she and her mother had both been raised around an embittered concentration camp survivor who had never been able to forgive the Nazis.

After all, her grandmother Michla’s entire family had perished in a death camp in Poland, or at least so she thought. However, there had been a rumor that her brother Feiv’ke might have survived; but Michla lost hope when he failed to materialize at a rendezvous at the Lodz train station that had been arranged by an intermediary.

So, Michla made her way to Tel Aviv where, despite being plagued by nightmares, she would marry and have three kids. Unfortunately, she was also widowed at a young age, and eventually went to her grave still harboring a grudge against Germany.

Meanwhile, her brother changed his name to Peter Schwarz, and married a German gentile with whom he had three children. And not only did he hide the fact that he was Jewish from his offspring, but he continued to live in Schlieben, the town where he’d been imprisoned in a Nazi death camp.

When Ms. Reuveny caught wind of the existence of another branch of her family tree, she became obsessed with tracking down her long-lost relatives. That five-year quest is the focus of Farewell, Herr Schwarz, a bittersweet documentary detailing an attempt to reconcile a pair of siblings’ polar opposite response to the Holocaust.

After examining the divergent behavior of siblings Michla and Peter, director Reuveny devotes attention to how the pair’s second and third generations have adjusted to life. It is quite a surprise to learn that Peter’s grandson Stephan’s dream has been to move to Israel ever since learning that he is a quarter Jewish. And by contrast, filmmaker/narrator Reuveny opts to settle in Europe, feeling perfectly at home there upon completion of her labor of love.

A fascinating, generations-spanning genealogical journey!

Excellent (4 stars)

Unrated

In Hebrew, German and English with subtitles

Running time: 100 minutes

Distributor: Kino Lorber

DVD Extras: None

To see a trailer for Farewell, Herr Schwarz, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKZ1tPunFvw