Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Indiegogo Video: 'Dear White People' Breaks Domestic Box Office Record for a Crowdfunded Film Indiegogo Video: 'Dear White People' Breaks Domestic Box Office Record for a Crowdfunded Film Bring on the Racist Comments - Mehcad Brooks Cast to Play Jimmy Olsen in New 'Supergirl' Series Bring on the Racist Comments - Mehcad Brooks Cast to Play Jimmy Olsen in New 'Supergirl' Series These Films & TV Series Are Leaving Netflix's Streaming Library at the End of This Month (January) These Films & TV Series Are Leaving Netflix's Streaming Library at the End of This Month (January) Trailer: Musical Take on the Gospel According to John the Apostle w/ a Black Cast (Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Mali Music, More) Trailer: Musical Take on the Gospel According to John the Apostle w/ a Black Cast (Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Mali Music, More) First 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Trailer Surfaces! Watch It Now! First 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Trailer Surfaces! Watch It Now! Idris Elba Is Getting Behind the Camera Again to Direct TV Drama, 'King for a Term' Idris Elba Is Getting Behind the Camera Again to Direct TV Drama, 'King for a Term' Review: 'Girlhood's' Strength Lies in Its Naturalistic Depiction of Young Female Friendship (Opens Friday) Review: 'Girlhood's' Strength Lies in Its Naturalistic Depiction of Young Female Friendship (Opens Friday) After Strong Reviews & Bidding War, Rick Famuyiwa's 'Dope' Picked Up By Open Road for Reported $7 Million Sum After Strong Reviews & Bidding War, Rick Famuyiwa's 'Dope' Picked Up By Open Road for Reported $7 Million Sum Review: Lifetime's 'With This Ring' - So What Did You Think of It? Review: Lifetime's 'With This Ring' - So What Did You Think of It? Review: Nzingha Stewart Guides Lifetime's 'With This Ring' (Premieres Saturday, January 24th) Review: Nzingha Stewart Guides Lifetime's 'With This Ring' (Premieres Saturday, January 24th) 'Empire' Breaks Fox TV’s 22 Year Old Ratings Record 'Empire' Breaks Fox TV’s 22 Year Old Ratings Record Alexandra Shipp Has been Cast as Storm in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Alexandra Shipp Has been Cast as Storm in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Open Casting Call - 2 Male Leads in New Feature Film From the Producers of 'Pariah' & 'Yelling to the Sky' Open Casting Call - 2 Male Leads in New Feature Film From the Producers of 'Pariah' & 'Yelling to the Sky' An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay Watch Trailer for Romcom 'With This Ring' (Regina Hall, Jill Scott, Eve Star - Coming January 2015) Watch Trailer for Romcom 'With This Ring' (Regina Hall, Jill Scott, Eve Star - Coming January 2015) Watch Teaser for 'Being Mary Jane' Season 2 + Details on Story, Guest Stars Watch Teaser for 'Being Mary Jane' Season 2 + Details on Story, Guest Stars 'Supremacy' Director Deon Taylor Talks Race, Horror, and Working With Lela Rochon (LAFF Premiere) 'Supremacy' Director Deon Taylor Talks Race, Horror, and Working With Lela Rochon (LAFF Premiere) It's A 'Hustle & Flow' Reunion! Taraji P. Henson Joins Terrence Howard In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' It's A 'Hustle & Flow' Reunion! Taraji P. Henson Joins Terrence Howard In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' ABC Is Making Changes To The Next-Day Online Availability Of Its Series ABC Is Making Changes To The Next-Day Online Availability Of Its Series Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video)

Blackstar Film Fest Review: Darius Clark Monroe's 'Evolution of a Criminal' Takes Powerful Look at Life-Changing Decision

Shadow and Act By Nijla Mumin | Shadow and Act August 3, 2014 at 2:46PM

The documentary is incredibly cinematic, using well-acted reenactments, deep, saturated cinematography, and shallow depth of field to fully capture the fear, momentum, and emotion surrounding the robbery.
0
monroe

Darius Clark Monroe's 'Evolution of a Criminal' screened this afternoon at the Blackstar Film Festival in Philadelphia (July 31 - August 3). Here's our review of the film.

There’s a popular image of the American bank robber- a "Bonnie and Clyde" outlaw wronged by society, wearing a sky mask. A Robin Hood-figure escaping with bags of unmarked bills. We root for this bank robber in movies. We hope they get away, even though they rarely do. When we leave these films, we get away from a fantasy, and go back to our safe lives. But, what if there’s no going back? What if there’s no hero, no excitement, no exit, and only a deep pain that follows?

In "Evolution of a Criminal," filmmaker and NYU-grad Darius Clark Monroe retraces the events, moments, and social dynamics that led him to rob a bank at the age of 16 with two other teenage friends, and the impact it had on his family and victims of the robbery. Raised in a close knit, Texas home, Monroe was made aware of his family’s increasing financial struggles and debt from an early age, causing a growing frustration in him.

This mounting frustration to economic poverty is often overlooked when the popular image of a “criminal” is presented. The mainstream media wants something and someone more controversial, someone they can paint as “bad,” as a stain on society. However, the youthful realization that you don’t belong to the middle class, that your mother is struggling, and your water will get cut off, can be deeply troubling, especially for a developing mind. In one scene, Monroe tells of his family home being robbed as a kid, and how the robbers left a large hole in their ceiling, stole their VCR’s and his stepfather’s paycheck. There’s a sense of great loss here because some of the film’s most candid footage is shot on VHS- like Monroe’s parents sharing a kiss that leaves lipstick on both of their lips. It’s almost is if the robbery happens on screen, because you feel a change and you see how this event indirectly influenced Monroe’s actions.

But for all of the retelling of events, Monroe doesn’t use this film to pity himself or explain why his actions were right. In fact, a lot of the film’s depth comes from a visibly tormented Monroe trying to piece together his actions and engage in an honest dialogue with those affected- his mother, family, and the people in the bank during the robbery, one of which, a pastor, sits down for a dimly-lit interview with Monroe. The perspective shift here is fascinating.

We live in a culture of glamorized violence, one that sees excitement in fictional despair, in police busting down doors on "Cops," and high speed chases in action films.  There are moments in this film that mirror pop culture; immediately after the robbery, Monroe’s accomplice takes a wad of cash and begins boasting of his fame to fellow students. And right before the robbery, Monroe makes an expert move to divert the cops' attention. We’ve seen these things in movies, but never in this way. Eventually tried as an adult under Texas law, Monroe finds his calling as a filmmaker in prison.

Adding to the narrative quality of the film is its photography by rising cinematographer Daniel Patterson. The documentary is incredibly cinematic, using well-acted reenactments, deep, saturated cinematography, and shallow depth of field to fully capture the fear, momentum, and emotion surrounding the robbery. I’ve always been weary of reenactments in documentaries because they can seem disjointed and separate from the film, but here they are deeply involving. It’s almost as if we’re watching a narrative fiction film alongside a documentary, creating an interesting blend of meaning. So, as the film unpacks the popular bank robber narrative, it uses some of the genre’s great technical conventions, creating a truly unique viewing experience. It is in these details that you glean Monroe’s voice as a filmmaker, and a look at his previous work in ""Slow becomes apparent.

In the end, the question is not so much “Why?” but “How?” How does a good student from a loving family evolve into a bank robber? There’s no easy answer, and Monroe’s documentary is anything but easy. It’s a textured look at environment, economic reality, and dreams blighted by a need to survive.

This article is related to: Darius Clark Monroe, Blackstar Film Festival


Shadow & ActNewsletter