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2014 MKE Film Festival: ‘Evolution of a Criminal’

Director+Darius+Clark+Monroe+tells+of+his+1998+bank+robbery+and+its+aftermath+in+his+documentary%2C+%22Evolution+of+a+Criminal.%22
Director Darius Clark Monroe tells of his 1998 bank robbery and its aftermath in his documentary,

Director Darius Clark Monroe tells of his 1998 bank robbery and its aftermath in his documentary, "Evolution of a Criminal."

Director Darius Clark Monroe tells of his 1998 bank robbery and its aftermath in his documentary, "Evolution of a Criminal."

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After being sentenced to five years in prison for a bank robbery, 16-year-old Darius Clark Monroe decided to make something of his time in prison. Realizing his passion for film, he decided to apply to New York University for grad school as a film student. The school accepted him, and “Evolution of a Criminal” was the result.

The film depicts Monroe’s story through scenes portrayed by actors and interviews of first-hand accounts, including those of the other two men involved in the robbery. It first shows Monroe in high school, an honors student with potential for a college scholarship. But after his low-income family is robbed, Monroe decides to take action.

On a normal, routine day of school, he and two of his classmates sneak out of school to rob $14,000 from a Bank of America in Texas. After weeks of fingers pointed toward Monroe, the police department arrests the boy and tries him as an adult. A judge sentences him to five years in prison.

The documentary goes on to show how Monroe morphs his life around his crime. He pursues his passion for film, yet he wants his story to be heard universally to teach the world a lesson.

What makes “Evolution of a Criminal” so moving is its style. The interviews are conducted by Monroe 10 years after the bank robbery, featuring his closest friends, family and teachers. The emotional reactions of the subjects speak louder than any of their words, especially when Darius’s mother breaks down while trying to describe how the robbery destroyed her emotionally. The first half of the documentary builds up the love the family has for Darius, and the second half simply proves how the incarceration caused the family devastation.

Monroe even included clips in the documentary of going house-to-house of the people at the bank on that dreadful day. Some people gracefully accepted Monroe’s atonement, but some shut the door in his face after telling him, “You caused too much damage to our family.” However, Monroe wants the audience to know the full effect of his crime, the full effect of any crime and the fact that no crime is worth it.

“Evolution of a Criminal” is Monroe’s way of getting that message across the nation, and Monroe travels with it to deliver inspiring speeches to prevent people from making the same mistake he did when he was 16 years old. His film has the power to influence millions of teenagers in the right direction, and platforms like the Milwaukee Film Festival provide the greatest opportunity to do just that.

 

★★★☆

 

Directed by Darius Clark Monroe

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