Sundance may be over, but Garrett Bradley’s short film “Alone” still feels as relevant as ever. The film was awarded the Short Form Jury Award in nonfiction after being one of 68 shorts accepted into the festival earlier this year. By telling the story of Aloné Watts, whose boyfriend Desmond has been incarcerated in a private prison for a year, Bradley examines the question of what it would mean to marry someone behind bars.
As well as delving into the injustices of the prison system and examining a type of modern relationship that is rarely, if ever, represented on film, “Alone” accomplishes a lot in its 13-minute running time by taking a deeply personal dive into Watts’ life as a black single mother. With closely framed shots and intimate voiceover, Bradley makes it nearly impossible not to feel what Watts feels in scenes such as the one where she is berated by her family for wanting to marry Desmond while he is still in prison. Watts even struggles with the decision herself throughout the film, seeming to want to marry Desmond, but also debating what that will mean for her life.
The short has now made its way online, thanks to the New York Times’ Op-Doc series.
“Aloné and Desmond’s story in many ways reflects our country’s history of slavery, in particular for how it mirrors the chronic possibility of separation for enslaved people through the sale of family members,” Bradley writes in her piece on the film for NYT. “After the Civil War, formerly enslaved men and women reassembled their families by placing newspaper advertisements in search of lost family members, and men and women signed up to formalize their unions. But the onslaught against the black American family remains intractable.”
She adds, “I hope this film can propose a way of thinking about marriage as a symbol, one with the power to contradict our legacy of historical exclusion. Marriage as a right, not a privilege.”
You can watch “Alone” below, via New York Times: