- Emma Simmonds
- 15 October 2020
LFF 2020: Garrett Bradley follows an astonishing woman as she fights to free her husband
A wife and mother battles to reunite her family over two long decades in this remarkable documentary, which views the subject of incarceration through a fiercely personal and confrontational prism.
Garrett Bradley won the US Documentary Directing Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival – the first Black woman to do so – for a film which follows African-American firebrand Sibil Fox Richardson, as she attempts to secure the release of her husband Rob, who is serving a 60-year stretch for armed robbery. 'Our prison system is nothing more than slavery and I see myself as an abolitionist,' she preaches.
In this artfully shot, impactfully assembled film, Bradley opts for sombre black-and-white throughout. It opens with clips from Fox Richardson's own gorgeously grainy home movies, that preserve the raw agony as her and her young sons struggle and endure in the aftermath of Rob's imprisonment, her vulnerability palpable during heartfelt to-camera confessions.
When the film switches to glossy professional footage, shot decades later, it perfectly captures Sibil's evolution from a lovesick, rough-around-the-edges single mom, who herself spent time in jail, to a polished salesperson and formidable orator of powerful emphasis and religious zeal. She has raised her boys to be astonishingly accomplished young men, some of whom speak eloquently here, with her own pain better concealed and more usefully channelled than before.
Sibil's practised patience is in ample evidence as she fights for her man, but there are moments of fleeting frustration at the endless hoops she has to jump through, and disgust at what she describes as a 'cruel and unusual punishment'. A stirring piano score (from Edwin Montgomery and Jamieson Shaw) beautifully emulates the family's fluctuating emotions as the film flicks back and forth across the spectrum of this incredible journey. Intimate and illuminating, Time is a formidable testament to the power of love, with Sibil herself a stone-cold survivor.
Screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020. Available to watch on Amazon Prime Video from Fri 16 Oct.