Doc Talk | Peter Keough

Lessons in black and white

Lucia McBath, mother of victim Jordan Davis,  in “3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets.”
Participant Media
Lucia McBath, mother of victim Jordan Davis, in “3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets.”

To misquote Freud, what do white people want? Jose Antonio Vargas’s documentary, “White People,” confronts an assortment of Caucasian youth with variations of that question in an effort to engage them in a conversation about racial and cultural diversity. “We talk to young white people and try to understand where they are coming from without instantly judging it,” says Vargas on the MTV website promoting the film. Probing a volatile topic but one that needs to be addressed, “White People” will premiere on MTV on Wednesday at 8 p.m.

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White fright

One topic that could be discussed in the MTV documentary mentioned above is the tendency for white people to shoot black people for no good reason, and often do so with impunity. Mark Silver’s “3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets” investigates one such case, in which 45-year-old Michael Dunn fired 10 bullets at a car full of unarmed teenagers, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn’s attorney resorted to Florida’s usually reliable “Stand Your Ground Law” for his defense, but in this case the jury got it right, convicting Dunn and sentencing him to life in prison. That may be some consolation for Davis’s mother, Lucia McBath, who will be present for a Q&A session following the film’s screening on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Coolidge Corner Theatre.

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Blessed are the peacemakers

At a time when many of those in power were eager to go to war, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke sought to make peace. He saw the consequences of unwise military adventures when he served as a junior foreign service officer during the Vietnam War, and thereafter he was often the go-to person for resolving seemingly unresolvable conflicts, as he did by crafting the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, ending the Bosnian Civil War. But Afghanistan proved too much even for him, and he died there of a heart attack at the age of 69 while seeking a peaceful resolution to the chaos. David Holbrooke’s “The Diplomat” chronicles his father’s career, and it is being screened by newportFilm on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. outdoors at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport. A Q&A with the director follows.

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Fortunes of nonfiction filmmakers


It’s been good news/bad news of late for those honored in last year’s best documentary Oscar category. On the plus side, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has elected Rory Kennedy, director of the Oscar-nominated “Last Days in Vietnam,” to its 2015-16 Board of Governors. It’s a first step on the way to making the notoriously white male-dominated academy more inclusive. On the downside, however, Fortune recently reported that Laura Poitras, director of the Oscar-winning “Citizenfour,” a documentary about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, has been detained some 50 times over a six-year period when she tried to enter the United States. Undaunted, she has brought suit against the US government to find out exactly why. Sounds like the makings of another documentary.

Peter Keough can be reached at