Filmmaker turns his darkest secret into documentary

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STAFFORD, Texas -- When Darius Clark Monroe robbed a Stafford bank at the age of 16 with two high school friends, he wasn't looking to get rich. He was just trying to help out his parents, who despite having two jobs each, were still living paycheck to paycheck. Monroe, then an AP Honors student and student council member at Willowridge High School, was arrested in his classroom the week after the heist and did three years in a prison near Huntsville for the crime.

Now 34, he has gone on to become a filmmaker, studying at New  York University, and has turned his shameful past into a documentary, "Evolution of a Criminal." It not only lays bare his darkest secret but also speaks to the power of seeking redemption for past mistakes. Monroe realized while in Manhattan, he could not hide from his past. Instead, he chose to confront it head on, going back to Stafford to find the people he robbed ten years earlier and seeking their forgiveness.

"There was never any real closure. It just always felt like there was something that was left undone," explains Monroe. "I wanted to apologize and... I really wanted to also hear their side of the story."

Being in film school at the time, he recorded those meetings and that became the basis of his film which shows the far-reaching repercussions of the crime through the stories of Monroe's accomplices, family members and some of those in the bank that day. David Ned, now a pastor at Recharge Christian Fellowship Church in Sugar Land, was one of those robbed. He says being held up made him question his manhood, but it also made him turn closer to God. He has since become a strong supporter of Darius', even hosting a screening of the film at his church last month.

"Because of this documentary, people will never be the same. People are gonna have a different view of the other folks that have messed up," Pastor Ned explains, "And they'll have a different view of their own life because they'll know that there is hope, even after failure."

Monroe agrees, "I feel like a lot of people are good people, just put into bad situations."

PBS will air "Evolution of a Criminal" Monday night and, afterwards, it will be available on iTunes. Read more about Darius Clark Monroe in this month's issue of Houstonia.