Best Documentary/Nonfiction Film

Directed by Garrett Bradley

Garrett Bradley’s Time opens on a moment long since passed. A young woman discusses her recent stay in prison, shows off her baby bump and speaks with determined hope of better days to come. It’s a grainy video, clearly quite old. That fresh-faced twentysomething will be middle-aged now. The twins in her belly will be grown. By the time we’re seeing it, it’s already time we can’t get back. More crucially, it’s time the woman, Fox Rich, and her husband, Rob, can never get back again. A few years into a 60-year sentence, he’s lost countless moments like these, and will lose countless more to come.

Nevertheless, life goes on. It can’t not. Fox moves cities, changes jobs, raises their six boys, becomes a prison abolition activist and a tireless advocate for Rob’s release. Through it all, Rob remains a constant in his absence. Time skips back and forth across the decades, weaving together home movies and more recent footage to trace the Riches’ lives with breathtaking intimacy. As presented in black-and-white and set to a swirling piano soundtrack by Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, the scenes evokes the bittersweet ache of longing for days slipped by.

In doing so, it moves us to reckon with the true cost of imprisonment. What does it really mean to separate a father from his family, to force him to miss the moments that make up a life? What does it do to a family to rob them of their father for so many years? To a community? A country? In some ways, the Riches’ story isn’t so unusual; as the Riches themselves point out, millions of others (especially among Black and brown communities) have been harmed by the American prison system. What Bradley’s done with their story, however, is nothing short of remarkable.

— Angie J. Han