A love story colored by imprisonment

On Sunday night, the black female director was able to win an Academy Award for the first time in Oscar history. In her new documentary, Time, Garrett Bradley shares decades of inspirational stories about a family in Louisiana fighting the US prison system through the lens of a loved one left behind. doing.

In the first few minutes of time, Civil Fox Richardson looks straight down at the lens and talks to her husband Robert and the infamous Louisiana State Prison prisoner.

“Can you see this smile, Robert?” Richardson whispers and shines into the camera. “Do you know how hard I laugh when you get home?”

In a clip taken from a home video decades ago, Richardson’s young face almost fills the frame. She is resolute. “I feel like a champion,” she says.

In the next shot, she has the same face, but there is a gray-haired old man in her temple. Richardson is approaching 50 and Robert hasn’t returned home yet.

In September 1997, Richardson and her high school lover Robert tried to rob Louisiana’s bank. The two just married have opened a hip-hop clothing store in Shreveport. But they struggled and became “desperate,” Richardson tells us.

Richardson, now known as Fox Rich, accepted a judicial transaction with a 13-year sentence and was released three and a half years later. Robert was advised by his lawyer not to engage in judicial transactions and gained 60 years without the possibility of parole.

Bradley’s films are not criminal. She is more interested in the time that follows. And instead of taking us in with Robert, Bradley trains her lens on what’s left. “It really became clear that there was no voice in the conversation about imprisonment, from a woman’s point of view and a family’s point of view,” Bradley said in a telephone interview from his home in Southern California.

Her film connects the early years of his ruling with an archive of home videos showing that she is raising the couple’s six sons, following Rich in recent years fighting for Robert’s release. ..

Time documentary

Time documentary

According to Bradley, the US prison system is “invisible by design.” “Often the only proof of what was happening is in the people who are providing time outside.”

Bradley, 35, was born and raised in New York City, the daughter of two visual artists. She studied religion at Smith College in Massachusetts and later became a full-time filmmaker. Much of her work to date (including some shorts and the fiction feature Below Dreams) has investigated images of Black America that are mostly off-screen.

Her 2017 short documentary, Alone, began focusing on the prison system, following a young woman struggling to marry her imprisoned boyfriend. According to Bradley, he was the sister of Thyme’s film alone, because he introduced her richly. Rich has a short but memorable appearance.

Bradley initially intended to make Time a short film. This is comparable to the alone execution time of about 12 minutes. However, on the final day of shooting, Rich presented her with a bag of mini DV tape. A total of 100 hours of home video.

Archive footage shows a young Rich talking thoughtfully with his absent husband and robbing his camera. It shows six boys riding a bike, blowing out birthday candles, and growing from toothless kindergarten to college graduates. The mother is waiting for Robert to come home.

Garrett Bradley

Bradley’s film depicts an intimate portrait of a family torn by the prison system.

Bradley had already begun shooting short documentaries in black and white when presented with Lich’s old video recorded in rich colors. She decided to convert the video of the house to black and white accordingly. The color scheme gave “superficial linearity,” Bradley said. “Something like black and white has become Saran Wrap that wraps the whole movie.”

The result is a slow-paced film that slides slowly back and forth. Bradley does not use traditional signs such as dates and names on the screen. Estimate the age of Rich’s sons and how much time has passed before the line on her face.

The United States traps more people per capita than any other country in the world, with approximately 2.1 million people in prisons and prisons. Behind the bar are Latin Americans, Native Americans, and African Americans. Blacks can be five times more likely to be imprisoned than whites. And Louisiana, the home of the Rich family, has a higher rate of imprisonment than anywhere else in the United States.

Another movie may have explored the details of the country’s formidable prison system. Bradley’s does not. There are no scenes taken from inside Angola, a Louisiana prison, and no image of Robert in a prison jumpsuit. In the documentary, the prison can only be seen from the sky.

When Bradley wanted to explain the imprisonment in the United States, she realized that she was “trying to explain racism in the United States,” she told filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

What she gives us instead is a more immediate, 80-minute close-up of a woman and her love story. Bradley’s shots are intense and patient, often against the inflated piano chords of Ethiopian composer and nun Emma Hoi Tsege Mariam Gebro. However, Rich’s voice and face dominate.

Time documentary

Rich’s home video shows her six sons growing home without a father

Before starting the shooting, Rich and Robert told Bradley that their story wanted to give hope to other families affected by the imprisonment, Bradley said. And in front of Bradley’s camera and her own camera, Rich is an almost unmistakable picture of purpose and optimism.

“Every year we start knowing that this will be the year my husband will fall,” she says in the movie. Every year she says, “Next year is the year.”

Bradley seems to have made a conscious decision to show Lich the way she wants to see, a powerful and sure way. On a phone call with a court clerk coveting information about Robert’s pending release, she remains painfully polite and no one provides help while bouncing from person to person. .. In just two scenes, you can see her taking a break. One cries when Rich talks about twins. Not yet born when Robert was sentenced to prison, the approaching 18th birthday of them shows the length of his absence.

“I think we tend to feel that our vulnerabilities are somehow more true than their resilience and strength,” Bradley said. “As a filmmaker, I choose to devote myself to their power.”

Time documentary

“As a filmmaker, I choose to devote myself to their power,” Bradley said of her character.

After 21 years, Robert was finally released and commuted by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. In a movie plagued by Robert’s absence, his presence is almost incredible.

The drive they go home with brings one of the most inspirational scenes in the movie. This is evidence of the close relationship between Bradley and Rich (Rich describes it as “love at first sight”). Filmed in slow motion by one of Bradley’s cinematographers, Nisa East, we were clearly aware of the camera when we saw Rich and Robert undressed and locked their eyes in an intimate moment in the backseat. not. For Rich, the woman who controls her image, it’s only the movie time when she forgets herself.

“I wanted to be with my love,” Rich said in an interview with her 20-year battle for Robert. “There was nothing they could do or prevent them from reuniting their families.”

In the final sequence, the documentary is rewound and the home video montage is played in reverse. Boys are playing in the backyard pool and bunk beds, and are pregnant and giving birth. It dates from pre-crime to another kiss in another car between Robert and Rich-both time recovered and time lost.

For Bradley, it was a kind of re-creation, an effort to match the image Robert had in mind while waiting inside.

“That was what I wanted to give to Robert,” she said.

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