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Arts & Culture

INDEPENDENT LENS: Evolution Of A Criminal

Still from film’s reenactment of Darius Monroe and accomplices preparing to rob a bank.
Courtesy of Daniel Patterson
Still from film’s reenactment of Darius Monroe and accomplices preparing to rob a bank.

Airs Monday, January 12, 2015 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

INDEPENDENT LENS features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community or moment in history. The series is supported by interactive companion web sites and national publicity and community engagement campaigns. Acclaimed actor and filmmaker Stanley Tucci hosts the series.

Filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe as a baby with his mother, Sigrid Tillman.
Courtesy of Darius Clark Monroe
Filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe as a baby with his mother, Sigrid Tillman.
Still from film’s reenactment of Darius Monroe and accomplice on the way to rob a bank.
Courtesy of Daniel Patterson
Still from film’s reenactment of Darius Monroe and accomplice on the way to rob a bank.
Still from film’s reenactment of Darius Monroe being brought to face authorities.
Courtesy of Daniel Patterson
Still from film’s reenactment of Darius Monroe being brought to face authorities.
Filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe.
Courtesy of Daniel Patterson
Filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe.

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 on PBS.

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.

Past episodes of INDEPENDENT LENS are available for online viewing. INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter. Spike Lee is on Facebook, and you can follow @SpikeLee on Twitter. "Evolution Of A Criminal" film is on Facebook, and you can follow @daclamo (Darius Clark Monroe) on Twitter.