Directed by Garrett Bradley
Time is our most valuable commodity. It’s something that Rob Rich will never get back. In 1997 he robbed a Shreveport Credit Union with the help of his cousin. His wife Fox Rich —pregnant with twins — drove the getaway car. Times were tough. The couple was in their 20s, their business was failing, desperation set in. No cash was taken, and no one was hurt. They were also first-time offenders. That didn’t stop the judge from sentencing Fox to 12 years behind bars while Rob was given a harsh 60-year sentence without the chance of parole; and that included time knocked off since there were no injuries. The two went to prison, the kids went to grandma.
Garret Bradley’s documentary started as a short film with Fox at its center. The mother of six children — including twins Freedom and Justus, who were born just before she went to prison — was released after serving 3 ½ years. Fox began keeping a video diary of life’s daily struggles and the kids’ milestones as a way to keep her sanity, but also in the hope that Rob would be able to catch up on lost time once released; She wasn’t going to wait 60 years for him to see it either. With over 100 hours of footage at her disposal, Bradley switched to feature mode, and “Time” was born.
There are several layers to the documentary. In part, it shows how Fox overcame adversity to raise six kids on her own and become a successful entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and author. Her 2009 book, “The One that Got Away” uses her life experience to empower young adults with a message of self-worth and a warning about prison, which is destroying black families.
Shot in black and white, which makes for a smooth transition between the archival footage and the new scenes, we watch as the film’s second layer — the kids’ lives — shows a tight-knit family guided by a strong maternal presence. The boys grow from inquisitive youngsters to successful and strong men.
The documentary’s third layer is focused on Louisiana’s criminal justice system — which apparently is in need of a major overhaul — as Fox works fervently to get her incarcerated husband released. She never once shows the anger burning inside to the white judges, secretaries, and people in power who are part of the system that unjustly threw the book at Rob; Senator Lindsey Graham, who recently said “Black people ‘can go anywhere’ in South Carolina if they’re conservative” would be proud of Fox Rich’s civility.
“Time” is a companion piece to Bradley’s 2017 short film “Alone” which is named after its protagonist, Aloné Watts, and her feeling of isolation. She, like Fox Rich, is awaiting the release of her man who’s in prison for nonviolent charges.
There are plenty of joyful moments captured by Bradley — watching son Remington graduate from dental school is one of them — but the focus is on the heartbreak, injustices, and anxiety dealt with by this family. Before you start thinking “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” let me emphasize that Fox Rich will be the first one to agree with that statement. “Time” is not a pity party, but fair is fair. 60 years behind bars for a non-violent first offence is ridiculous. Plus, Fox makes amends by apologizing for her crime in a church in front of her family, pastor, peers, and God.
The documentary leaves its deepest impact in the scenes where Fox Rich tells her story to others hoping they won’t stray down the same path in life. She’s also a motivator with plenty of experience overcoming life’s obstacles. Powerful.
Now showing in select theaters. Coming to Amazon Prime Video on October 16.