In 1997, a young Darius Clark Monroe robbed a bank in Stafford, Texas with two friends when he was only 16 years of age.
This parents were struggling with money, so Monroe, being young and stupid, thought taking a gun to a bank and stealing would be the right thing to do. Unfortunately, he was tried as an adult and served a long three years in a prison cell for the crime.
After this horrible event, you would think that Monroe would want to forget his crimes and never look back. But when he was a student at NYU film school, Monroe decided in order to gain closure, he would need to go back to the past.
He decided to shoot a documentary "Evolution of a Criminal" with one of his NYU professors.
The documentary is made up of interviews with Monroe's family, his teachers and law enforcement officials. He also decided to create a reenactment of the crime to show how the crime happened.
However, the most intense moments in the documentary happen when Monroe visits the homes of the people who were in the bank that day and apologizes to them for what he put them through.
Here are a few questions Monroe was asked about his documentary...
- How did it come to be that you decided to turn the camera on yourself and tell this story?
It started because of a weird situation that happened in New York many years after the robbery. I had a really, really bad panic attack standing inside of a bank. I thought someone who was pacing back and forth outside the window was going to come in and rob it. I just created this whole incident in my head.
I knew that the panic attack was due to the fact that I had been involved in a robbery as an offender, but I always believed that I would be a victim one day. And so that's sort of what got my mind to think about the customers inside the bank [I robbed] and the fact that I had never really just gone down to apologize, to seek these individuals out and to ask for forgiveness. I felt the need to have a conversation. I just felt like so much time had gone by, and I was ashamed that I had not really considered the fact that these people deserved a proper apology.
- So was that when you knew you wanted to make a film?
No. Actually, it just turned into me wanting to go there and find the people. My best friend, Daniel Patterson, who is also the DP of the film, was like, "Take cameras with you. Who knows what may happen? You should film this journey."
We thought the film would be more about me making the film about trying to track down these people inside the bank, and it changed completely after talking with my mother because I realized that there was just so much about the robbery and my incarceration that we never spoke about, and I became fascinated with what influenced me to make this choice in the first place.
And I knew that I was going to have to be in there because there was just no way I could ask my family to essentially rip their hearts out again and go down this road if I wasn't willing to do it myself.
- Was your family open to reliving all of this again on camera, or did it take some convincing to get them to agree to be interviewed?
They were pretty much open to it when I mentioned it to them, but the thing, I think, that was surprising for a lot of us, was that we felt there was some sense of distance from the topic and closure, but we were all fooling ourselves. I knew that for a fact because the moment we started the interviews and got to the topic of the robbery and all the circumstances around it emotions were super high. None of us had really worked through any it. I think everybody was sort of surprised by how emotional and how raw they were years later.
- You also apologize to some of the people who were in the bank at the time you rob it, showing up at their homes and knocking on their doors. What was that like?
It was terrifying. I was terrified because I didn't know what type of response I would get or who was going to show up at the door. I also didn't know if they were going to show up at the door with a shotgun once they found out who I was.
- Your mom must be so proud of you.
It's funny. She's been smiling so much this whole year, and I know she's proud. It was a tough situation when she found out about the robbery and me going to prison. So to go from such a really dark and down place to having a film out that’s being shown at festivals and being able to talk about what happened and not feel ashamed . . . This was an experience that no one could ever imagine would happen. It’s been quite surreal, and it's been extremely humbling, and it just shows the power of resilience and faith and hope and possibility that’s within us human beings. It's a beautiful thing.