The Island’s independent film venues are offering two interesting documentaries plus a fiction film based on a true story this week. Take your pick from the conclusion of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center’s Documentary Week with “The Galapagos Affair: Satan Comes to Eden,” about murderous goings-on on the Ecuadorian archipelago, with a Q & A featuring directors Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine.
Or view 2015 Sundance Special Jury prizewinner “3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets” at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs on Saturday, August 8, including prescreening cocktails, with parents Ron Davis and Lucia McBath and Island summer resident and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Journalist Caroline Clark will moderate a discussion with Jordan Davis’s parents after the film. As part of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, this film examines Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law.
Last but hardly least is the Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute Film Series screening of “24 Days: The True Story of the Ilan Halimi Affair,” on Sunday, August 9. This compelling tale, winner of the Lia Award at the 2014 Jerusalem Film Festival, narrates the real-life kidnapping of a Jewish Parisian.
Anyone who has visited the idyllic Galapagos Islands can understand why Charles Darwin studied their unique fauna, and many call them a paradise. As interviewed in this intriguing true story from the 1930s, today’s Galapagos residents dispute this claim. The multipart “Galapagos Affair” begins with the tale of how Dr. Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch left their respective spouses in Berlin in 1929 and moved to the uninhabited island of Floreana to escape a “corrupt society.” Both were reclusive types, and Dr. Ritter sought to pursue his Nietzsche-inspired philosophical musings. Although international media described them sensationally as “Adam and Eve in Paradise,” scientists who visited on the research vessel Velero concluded that was not a valid description. Part II, “The Intruders,” describes how another German couple arrives on Floreana, also seeking isolation, and sets up housekeeping. Next comes the self-proclaimed Baroness Von Wagner, who shows up with two lovers in tow and antagonizes the others by announcing she plans to build a hotel for millionaires. In Part III, “The Drought,” friction develops among the island’s residents as they cope with excessive heat and a lack of water. One mysterious disappearance or death after another occurs, and current residents still speculate on what actually happened.
‘3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets’
In 2012, Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old African American who lived in suburban Jacksonville, Fla., made the fatal mistake of ignoring a request to turn down his music at a gas station. The request came from Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man returning from a wedding where he had been drinking heavily. Although this documentary by Marc Silver is unduly slow-paced, it has an important message to deliver about the criminal justice system and racism in modern America. In 2005, Florida was the first of 22 states to pass a “stand your ground” law. This statute allows an individual to use deadly force without retreating to protect one’s life against a perceived threat. A similar ordinance, a “castle” doctrine, applies in 45 states in respect to standing one’s ground when one’s home is attacked.
Defendant Michael Dunn insisted that Jordan Davis had a gun, although there was no evidence that was the case. Mr. Davis was sitting in an SUV with three friends, playing rap music that one of his friends initially turned down at Mr. Dunn’s request. The murder victim insisted on turning the music back up, and Mr. Dunn pulled a weapon out of his glove box, shooting through the car 10 times and killing Mr. Davis. Suspense builds during the prolonged court case, which leads to conviction on lesser charges but a mistrial on the crucial charge of first-degree murder, followed by a nail-biting retrial.
‘24 Days: The True Story of the Ilan Halimi Affair’
Director Alexandre Arcady’s fiction film about the kidnapping of a Parisian youth (played by Syrus Shahidi) is a harrowing tale of brutality and anti-Semitism, based on an account co-written by the actual victim’s mother, Ruth Halimi. Using an attractive young woman as bait, a brutal gang headed by Youssouf Fofana (played by Tony Harrison) from the Ivory Coast lures the young man to the suburbs of Paris, where they kidnap and torture him.
The Parisian police seem unable to mount an effective offensive or rescue Ilan from the group of bungling brutes, who call the Halimi family with varying demands and move their victim repeatedly. The Halimi family is gradually torn apart by the kidnapping and the resistance of authorities to admitting that it is an anti-Semitic act. Ilan’s mother Ruth (played by Babou Breitman) holds her ground against police inaction, and speaks to the press, saying, “I want his death to sound an alarm.”
“The Galapagos Affair: Satan Comes to Eden,” Friday, August 7, 7:30 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information, see mvfilmsociety.com.
“3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets,” Saturday, August 8, 7:30 pm, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival at Union Chapel, Oak Bluffs. For tickets and information, see tmvff.org.
“24 Days: The True Story of the Ilan Halimi Affair,” Sunday, August 9, 7:30 pm, the Hebrew Center Summer Institute Film Series at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information, see mvsummerinstitute.com or mvfilmsociety.com.