During a special conversation with Till director Chinonye Chukwu last week, she pointed out that she was very mindful of how she would not put in the horrible murderous, racist violence inflicted upon Emmett Till in the movie based on the true story of Mamie Till Mobley looking for justice after the murder of her 14-year-old son in 1955. In other words, Black trauma on screen ends here. Instead, it’s a family story and how this moment impacted a mother and her pursuit for justice that would resonate throughout all of history.
Co-written by Chukwu, Michael Reilly, and Keith Beauchamp, Till stars Danielle Deadwyler (Mamie Till Mobley), Jalyn Hall (Emmett Till), Frankie Faison (John Carthan), Haley Bennett (Carolyn Bryant), Sean Patrick Thomas (Gene Mobley), John Douglas Thompson (Moses Wright), and Whoopi Goldberg (Alma Carthan). Till follows the story of Mamie Till Mobley’s as she looks for justice for her 14 year old son, Emmett, who, in 1955, was lynched while visiting his cousins in Mississippi. In Mamie’s journey of grief turned to action, we witness the universal power of a mother’s courage, and ability to change the world. The film is produced by Keith Beauchamp, Barbara Broccoli, Whoopi Goldberg, Thomas Levine, Michael Reilly and Frederick Zollo.
This year marks what would have been Till’s 81st birthday and it is the perfect time for this film to be released.
The film will make its world premiere at the 60th New York Film Festival on opening weekend, which takes place September 30 – October 16. The film is set to open in limited release on October 14 before opening wide on October 28.
I don’t think much needs to be said by me after watching that emotional trailer. Instead, let me post Chukwu’s statement which was released with the trailer.
When I was approached to write and direct a story about Emmett Till, I found myself drawn to a singular figure at the center of his orbit. I saw an opportunity to subvert expectations and approach the narrative through another lens – from the maternal point of view of Mamie Till Mobley. Had it not been for Mamie, her son’s memory would have evaporated into thin air. She was the catalyst for a modern day civil rights movement that has laid a formidable framework for future activists and Freedom Fighters. I felt compelled to champion Mamie’s legacy and center her in the spotlight where she rightfully belongs.
Mamie’s untold story is one of resilience and courage in the face of adversity and unspeakable devastation. For me, the opportunity to focus the film on Mamie, a multi-faceted Black woman, and peel back the layers on this particular chapter in her life, was a tall order I accepted with deep respect and responsibility. On the daily, Mamie combatted racism, sexism, and misogyny, which was exponentially heightened in the wake of Emmett’s murder. Mamie did not cower. Instead, she evolved into a warrior for justice who helped me to understand and shape my own similar journey in activism. And as a filmmaker, showing Mamie in all her complex humanity was of utmost importance.
The crux of this story is not about the traumatic, physical violence inflicted upon Emmett – which is why I refused to depict such brutality in the film – but it is about Mamie’s remarkable journey in the aftermath. She is grounded by the love for her child, for at its core, TILL is a love story. Amidst the inherent pain and heartbreak, it was critical for me to ground their affection throughout the film. The cinematic language and tone of TILL was deeply rooted in the balance between loss in the absence of love; the inconsolable grief in the absence of joy; and the embrace of Black life alongside the heart wrenching loss of a child.
I hope viewers will empathize with the humanities on screen and see our present cultural and political realities within this film. And I hope that Mamie’s story helps us all to realize the power within ourselves to continue to fight for the change we want to see in the world, just as she did.