December 30, 2020 – This black and white documentary film from Amazon Prime bears witness to the power of one woman to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds with the aid of her faith and family.
That woman, Sibil Fox Richardson (known as Fox Rich) is a tower of strength in this film as she fights to get her husband, Robert Richardson, out of infamous Angola Prison in Louisiana.
This movie started with a New York Times documentary called “Alone.” Director Garrett Bradley had planned on a short film, but changed her mind when Fox handed her a bag of videos of her and her family filmed over the years by her and her son, Justus (he and his twin brother, Freedom, were born in prison). Garrett was inspired by the videos and decided to incorporate them into a feature length documentary film, “Time.”
Those videos show Fox and Robert years ago when they were just starting married life with high hopes. They had a home and their own business, an upscale black clothing store, “Culture,” in Shreveport, Louisiana. When their money ran out, they became desperate and tried to rob a bank. They were caught and went to prison, Fox for three and a half years, her husband for 60 years, without the possibility of parole.
A black woman with a prison record trying to make a living while raising six sons, and fighting to get her husband released from prison at the same time is not a formula for success, but somehow, Fox makes it all work.
Fox is a powerful, beautiful woman, who has a commanding presence on screen. She is also an accomplished motivational speaker, and that comes across strongly in the film as well. Her sons' educational achievements are also impressive, especially given the odds against them. But Fox and her sons were not alone. Friends, family and her Christian faith all play a part in their success, too, as the film reveals.
As unconventional as Fox and her family is, the film itself is equally unconventional, with its non-linear construction. Scenes seem to be stitched together at random, but it all works. Video shot for this documentary by Garrett Bradley's crew is seamlessly intercut with video shot earlier by Fox and her son.
The emotional soundtrack of the film is also unconventional, mostly taken from 1960s piano compositions by Ethiopian nun Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, deftly adapted, along with other score compositions by Edwin Montgomery and Jamieson Shaw.
As uplifting as this story is, there is an undercurrent of sorrow and anger that also appears in the film when Fox talks about the 21 years spent apart from her husband. Fox's son Remi says of this sad, angry undercurrent, “My family has a strong image, but hiding behind it is a lot of pain ... Time is influenced by a lot of our emotions. It’s influenced by our actions.”
Fox says bitterly, “Our prison system is nothing more than slavery. And I see myself as an abolitionist.” She continues to work for criminal justice reform, and based on what she has accomplished so far, it would unwise to bet against her. This movie rates a B+.
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