"Evolution of a Criminal" airs Jan. 12

New Documentary "Evolution of a Criminal," Traces Filmmaker’s Path From Honors Student to Bank Robber and the Lasting Impact of His Actions
by VERGE Staff | Entertainment and Culture | Saturday, January 10, 2015

evolution of a criminal-darius clark monroe- filmmaker

How does a 16-year-old evolve into a bank robber? In Evolution of a Criminal, filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe searches for the answers — about himself. Years after his release from prison, Monroe returns to his old neighborhood to speak with family and friends, along with classmates, teachers, law enforcement officials and the innocent victims in the bank on the fateful day of the robbery. An honest journey of reflection and a personal search for redemption, Evolution of a Criminal, executive produced by Spike Lee, premieres on Independent Lens on Monday, January 12, 2015,10:00-11:30 PM ET on PBS (check local listings). 

A native of Houston, Texas, Monroe had a happy childhood with his mother, stepfather and close-knit extended family. However, as he grew older and saw his parents struggling to make ends meet, Monroe’s vision of the world changed: “I went from being a carefree and joyous child to becoming acutely aware of the fact that the world was not as I saw it. And the burden that my parents had was slowly trickling down to me.” Devastated after burglars made off with the family’s electronics and other possessions, Monroe stole replacement VCRs from the big-box store where he worked. As his parents’ finances continued to spiral downward, Monroe and two friends plotted and subsequently carried out an armed bank robbery. Placing his own culpability at the heart of the story, Monroe pulls no punches, using dramatized scenes of the bank robbery to capture the tragically bad decisions he and his friends made, and to bring home the terror of those they held at gunpoint. 

More than just a tale of a good kid gone wrong, Evolution of a Criminal is filled with compassion for human frailty and the knowledge that a person is not forever defined by their mistakes.

About the Filmmaker

Darius Clark Monroe (the film's director, producer, and subject) attended Willowridge High School in Houston, where he was an honors student taking advance placement courses. In his junior year, he and two classmates robbed a Bank of America branch near their high school. Convicted of the crime, Monroe was sentenced to five years in prison; while serving time he obtained his GED and took college courses, eventually deciding that he wanted to become a filmmaker. In 2004, Monroe graduated with honors from the University of Houston with a BA in Communications: Media Production, and subsequently received a MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

An award-winning filmmaker, Monroe is a National Board of Review, HBO Short Film and Urbanworld Best Screenplay award recipient. Most recently, he was selected to participate in the prestigious Screenwriters Colony and chosen as a fellow at the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Intensive. Evolution of a Criminal is his first feature film and is the recipient of an Austin Film Society Grant, Spike Lee Production Fellowship, Warner Bros. Film Award, Cinereach Grant, King Finishing Award, Tribeca All Access Participant, and a selectee of the IFP Documentary Lab.

Photo caption: Filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe. Photo credit: Daniel Patterson 

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