Darius Clark Monroe’s documentary, Evolution of a Criminal—airing as part of PBS’ Independent Lens series—could not be centered on a more personal subject. Monroe visits his own troubled past and specifically a bank robbery he was involved in when he was just 16 years old that ended with him going to jail for three years. The film involves interviews with Monroe’s family, teachers and law enforcement officials as well as Monroe visiting some of the people who were in the bank that day to apologize.
“We thought the film would be more about me making the film about trying to track down these people inside the bank, and it changed completely after talking with my mother because I realized that there was just so much about the robbery and my incarceration that we never spoke about, and I became fascinated with what influenced me to make this choice in the first place,” he tells Fast Company’s Co.Create. “The thing, I think, that was surprising for [my family] was that we felt there was some sense of distance from the topic and closure, but we were all fooling ourselves. I knew that for a fact because the moment we started the interviews and got to the topic of the robbery and all the circumstances around it emotions were super high. None of us had really worked through any it. I think everybody was sort of surprised by how emotional and how raw they were years later.”
Working with editor Doug Lenox, the NYU film school grad was also very cognizant of making sure the film had room to breathe. “It’s always important for Doug and I to play with pace and structure and allow the audience to go on this journey but also give them time to contemplate and to sit and process some of the things that are being discussed,” Monroe explains. “You don’t have to pound people over the head. You can give them information that’s visual without any words. Even with the reenactments, there are moments where you just see imagery, and you don’t hear anything. You just sort of have to process what you’re experiencing, and then you put this puzzle together.”
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