Time: Garrett Bradely’s Remarkable Documentary of a Single Mother’s Daily Struggle to Keep her Family Intact

Winner of the 2020 Best Documentary by the National Society of Film Critics (NSFC), of which I am a proud member.

Garrett Bradley directed Time, a gripping and touching feature, centering on one extraordinary woman, Sibil Fox Richardson, as she is fighting boldly and relentlessly for the release of her husband from long-term imprisonment.

Grade: A- (****1/2 out of *****)

ime
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release poster

The film world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2020, where it won the U.S. Documentary Directing Award, making Bradley the first African American woman to win in that category.

After playing at the New York Film Fest, it was released theatrically on October 9, 2020, and digitally on Prime Video on October by Amazon Studios.

The film’s heroine is Sibil Fox Richardson (nicknamed Fox Rich), an abolitionism activist and mother of six, who had served three and a half years in prison for her role in the bank robbery.  It chronicles her persistent fights to release her husband Rob, serving a 60-year prison sentence in the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

Bradley met Rich in 2016 while working on her short film “Alone,” a New York Times Op-Doc. Initially she intended to make a short about Rich, but when shooting wrapped, Rich gave Bradley mini-DV tapes, containing more than 100 hours of home videos recorded over the previous 18 years, she decided to make a feature-length docu.

In its bold approach, Time delivers a powerful broadside against the flaws of the American justice system, raising relevant questions about the functions and dysfunction of incarceration for the individual prisoners, their immediate family, their community, and society at large.

In the process, we get to meet rather intimately Rich’s entire family, and how inspired its members are by their courageous mother who’s determined to keep her nuclear family safe, whole, and unified. We get a realistic sense of the price and meaning of  a tough daily existence, defined by growing up without a father–or another significant male role model.

Rather commendably, Rich refuses to treat her husband–and herself–as symbols of oppression. Instead of objectifying her case, she and the director emphasize the particulars of her story (and struggle) and the idiosyncratic traits of the members of her clan.

Displaying a dazzling formal style, the film combines original footage with home videos. Shot on a Sony FS7 camera in black and white, the images reveal graceful angles and fluent compositions, the kinds of which are seldom seen in a debut feature.

The remarkable score and sound design are made up of original compositions by Jamieson Shaw and Edwin Montgomery, as well as music by Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, which was recorded in the 1960s.

Credits:

Directed by Garrett Bradley
Produced by Garrett Bradley, Kellen Quinn, Lauren Domino

Music by Jamieson Shaw, Edwin Montgomery

Cinematography: Zac Manuel, Justin Zweifach, Nisa East

Edited by Gabriel Rhodes

Production companies: Concordia Studio, The New York Times, Outer Piece, Hedgehog Films

Distributed by Amazon Studios

Release date: January 25, 2020 (Sundance), October 9, 2020 (US)

Running time: 81 minutes

 

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