Evolution of a Criminal: ‘I was a teenage bankrobber’

Darius Clark Monroe has made a candid documentary about his criminal past – and subsequent redemption. Tom Brook reports.

In 1997, Darius Clark Monroe robbed a bank in Texas with two accomplices. He was just 16 – and he ended up serving time in prison. A decade later, as a student at New York University Film School, he decided to turn the camera on his own life, interviewing his family and accomplices as well as a person who was a customer at the bank during the robbery.

The resulting documentary, Evolution of a Criminal, took seven years to make and has been a hit at film festivals.

“A lot of times we see films that are from the outside in,” Monroe tells Tom Brook. “Someone is coming from the outside, and they’re shaping and moulding the story that someone else has experienced. I believe the topics that we talk about in my film – from wealth inequality, to the prison-industrial complex, just to being a black man in America – need to be told from within.”

With unsparing detail, he covers everything from what motivated the robbery to how he turned his life around. Monroe believes he’s not just documenting a personal journey.

“It’s very difficult for individuals who have been incarcerated to actually get their lives together, because there isn’t really a community of people who want to welcome them back into society. For me the film says: ‘It is possible to turn your life around. It’s also possible to forgive.’”

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