The Oscar-nominated filmmaking team behind the documentary Time are looking forward to a reunion at Union Station in Los Angeles, the main venue for this year’s Academy Awards. Director-producer Garrett Bradley and producers Lauren Domino and Kellen Quinn haven’t seen each other in person for a while, because of Covid-19.
“I am really excited because these are two of my best friends in the whole world and we have not all been in a room together since we premiered this film,” Domino tells Deadline. “So it’s like a beautiful universe-full-circle of us being together and celebrating this achievement, celebrating each other.”
It’s the first Oscar nomination for all three. Domino and Bradley have collaborated on several short films previously, including Bradley’s Oscar-shortlisted 2017 short film, Alone. The two first met through the New Orleans chapter of Film Fatales, a nonprofit organization for women filmmakers.
“I think for Garrett and I, it was just that instant connection of, ‘I trust you. You’re like my sister,’ and it really just led to a working relationship,” Domino says, adding that her friendship with Bradley and Quinn “takes precedence over the work but it also helps us to be able to work together in such a way.”
Time, from Amazon Studios, Concordia Studio, and the New York Times, tells the story of Sibil Richardson, also known as Fox Rich, an African-American woman in Louisiana who raised six boys, all while struggling to win the release of her incarcerated husband, a first time offender given what amounted to a life sentence for armed robbery. Quinn, producer of the 2019 Oscar-shortlisted documentary Midnight Family, joined the Time production after it evolved from a short—the original plan—into a feature. He recalls getting his first look at a rough cut.
“It was still very, very raw,” Quinn remembers, “but it had moments in it that were unlike anything I’d seen in a documentary before.”
The film has been celebrated for its artistry, a seamless weaving of archival material shot by Fox Rich as her kids were growing up without their father at home, and more contemporary footage as Fox relentlessly pursued the reunification of her family. Through the story of the Richardsons, Time gestures toward the issue of mass incarceration in America, which disproportionately impacts African-Americans. According to the Marshall Project, Black people are put behind bars in state prisons at five times the rate of whites. And they typically receive substantially harsher sentences for comparable crimes.
“This is a film that is in dialogue with macro questions, macro problems,” Quinn notes. “The thing that makes it so exciting to work always on a documentary film is the way that we can be…exploring the macro and the micro simultaneously, the specific and the general. And I loved the way that this film has managed to move back and forth between those two almost in every frame.”
Domino says she finds inspiration in the Richardsons, who endured continual roadblocks with the criminal justice system but refused to give up hope.
“For 20 years they lived [with] loss. That really bears weight on you and you can have these moments where you’re really frustrated and sad and so overwhelmed by it all. And I think that their ability to push through that through love, loving each other and caring for each other, it’s just a really great model to move through the world,” Domino observes. “I like to think of films, at least the ones I try to be involved with, as sort of medicine. Like, what are we putting in the world that is making the world a little bit better? I feel with this film we got the opportunity to do that and to put some really good medicine in the world.”
Time is in black and white throughout—Bradley took the color out of the archival video to match the present-day footage.
“With it being in black and white, it just allows us to be in this beautiful state of flow that you’re in the memory, you’re feeling their past with the present, you’re feeling their present currently,” Domino explains. “I think that was just a beautiful idea.”
“The music is this other element wrapping around everything that brings this smoothness in as well,” Quinn adds. “I feel like that’s where I learned an enormous amount, just being present while Garrett and Gabe Rhodes were editing. That’s more language that Garrett brings in from her fine art practice, in a way. And it’s so powerfully effective in kind of surprising moments.”
Quinn says he finds it “very meaningful that this film was acquired by, supported by, and really given a big boost by a major, major streaming platform.” The Oscar recognition, likewise, gives a lift to a bold kind of documentary filmmaking.
“It’s a reflection of what I hope is a broader awakening in the industry,” he says. “I just want to make sure that any success that comes to me from that is something that I then bring back towards continuing to support radical filmmaking, radical work, work that takes risks and pushes boundaries in all respects.”
Domino has become one of only a handful of African-American women producers in documentary film to be recognized with an Oscar nomination.
“I hope that this just gives me the opportunity to be involved with and help films get made that highlight my community and bring good into the world,” Domino tells Deadline. “I would love to be a part of bringing more hope and healing into the world through cinema. And I hope that this gives me the opportunity to do that with more filmmakers of color.”