Time | Docs/ology

Time

Director: Garrett Bradley

Runtime: 81 min

“Desperate people do desperate things,” says Sibil Fox Richardson. “It’s as simple as that.”

In 1997, Sibil—also known as Fox Rich—and her husband, Rob, were desperate. They’d been high-school sweethearts. Now they already had two boys and a bucket full of dreams. But as their fledgling business struggled, Fox and Rob felt their world teetering on the edge.

“What we wanted more than anything was [to] not fail,” Fox said. 

So in the fall of 1997, Rob and his cousin robbed the Grambling Credit Union. Fox drove the getaway car.

They didn’t get far: The two were arrested. And while Fox took a plea deal and served just three-and-a-half years, Rob was sentenced to 60, with no possibility for probation or parole.

Fox has worked to get him out ever since.

Using a combination of old family films and current footage of Fox and her family, Garrett Bradley’s excellent documentary Time chronicles Fox’s two-decade battle to shorten Rob’s sentence and correct what she feels is an inherently unjust prison system. We watch Fox grow from a young woman trying to get her husband back, into a proud, poised and inexhaustible advocate for reform. Through countless speeches, we hear her discuss the inherent inequalities in how people are punished; how poor minorities are sentenced far more harshly than their white counterparts.

“It’s almost like slavery time,” Fox’s mother, Peggy, says. “Where the white man keeps you there until he figures it’s time for you to get out.”

Time addresses the injustices of what the film notes call the “prison-industrial complex.” But just as striking is the transformation of Fox and the heart and courage and faith she instilled in her six sons—boys whom she essentially raised alone.

We watch as the oldest son Remington moves from precocious kindergartener to graduating from the Meharry School of Medicine. Twins Justus and Freedom were still in the womb when we see the first footage of Fox, showing off her belly to the camera and, she hopes, to her husband. They’re ready to graduate high school when the movie shifts to the present: They’ve been without their father for their entire childhood. But thanks to their indomitable mom, they—and all Fox’s other kids—have done all right.

“Statistics say that kids of incarcerated parents don’t graduate from high school,” says Justus. He notes that he’s set to graduate early, and is already preparing for college.

And through it all, Fox keeps working for her husband. She calls apparently indifferent judges and clerks, asking for updates. She waits on hold for what seems like an eternity as the camera watches, only to be told that she’ll have to call back later. Fox remains unfailingly polite to everyone she talks to. But sometimes after she hangs up, she lets her frustrations show.

“Success,” she insists, “is the best revenge.” Her success, her family’s success, and ultimately, she hopes, the success of getting her husband out of prison.

Time is indeed a powerful examination of America’s prison system, but it’s more: It’s a look at a resilient woman and her family, unbowed and still fighting for what they believe is right through faith and hope and hard work.

“In our society, image is everything,” Remington says. “My family has a very strong image. But hiding behind it is a lot of hurt.”

But that hurt, as we see, doesn’t make them any less strong.

Time is in theaters today, and will be available on Amazon Prime October 16.

Written by Paul Asay