By Rollo Ross and Danielle Broadway
(Reuters) – Emmett Till’s murder and the acquittal of his killers became a landmark case in the American civil rights movement due to the brutality of his death and injustice that followed, but “Till” director Chinonye Chukwu takes a somewhat different angle.
Based on true events, the film focuses on a 14-year-old Black American boy named Emmett Till who was abducted, tortured and lynched after allegedly flirting with a white woman at the grocery store while visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955.
When the biopic trailer was released, some feared the depiction of the violence of the teen’s assault would be harrowingly graphic. However, Chukwu went in a different direction.
“This is not a story about the physical violence that was inflicted upon Emmett, this is the story about the woman who is responsible for the world knowing who Emmett Till even was,” Chukwu told Reuters. “It’s also a story that’s a love story between Mamie and her son and the joy and the humanity that also existed within them and between them as well.”
Whoopi Goldberg, who plays Mamie’s mother and Emmett’s grandmother, said it was okay for viewers to be worried about the violence of the story.
“I would say to most people, you’ve watched much worse stuff on your telly, you’ve seen much worse stuff on your television, much more graphic stuff. This is going to work in your brain, this is going to make you think ‘How do we prevent this kind of thing from happening anymore?’”
Actor Danielle Deadwyler portrays Till’s mother Mamie, who allowed for an open casket for her son’s memorial so the world could see the aftermath of excessive violence against her son.
“We have to maintain an understanding that this is a human being with a deeply urgent and tragic human experience that is still manifesting today in the guise of people, other Black folks, families losing their daughters, sons to a very, very similar kind of thing,” Deadwyler said.
While the story of Till is well-known for its impact on the American civil rights movement, Goldberg said she doesn’t want the story to fade.
“We see the same thing slipping towards us. We see that people say ‘No, we don’t need to include LGBTQ history in a book, we don’t need to include Black history in a book, we don’t need to include Asian history in the book, we don’t need to do any of that.’ Well, actually you do.”
“Till”, produced by Orion Pictures, premieres on October 14 in the United States.
(Reporting by Rollo Ross and Danielle Broadway; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Diane Craft)