'Till' Trailer Captures Story of Emmett Till's Mother and Civil Rights Icon Mamie Till Mobley
Director Chinonye Chukwu and Orion Pictures released the first look at the upcoming biopic Till, a feature highlighting the journey of civil rights icon Mamie Till Mobley as she fights for justice after the 1955 lynching of her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, during a visit with his cousins in Mississippi.
The trailer opens with tender glimpses into Emmett's (Jalyn Hall) upbringing in Chicago, surrounded by community and family, including his grandmother, Alma Carthan (Whoopi Goldberg). As he prepares to visit his cousins in Mississippi, Mamie (Danielle Deadwyler) explains to Emmett that racism functions differently in the South. "Be small down there," she cautions him.
Scenes of Emmett's time in Mississippi are interspersed with scenes of Mamie's fight for justice after he is lynched by a town following false accusations from a white woman. Emmett's murder became one of the catalyzing events of the civil rights movement, and the trailer highlights how Mamie's poignant journey of grief turned to action and permanently changed the nation.
When asked if her son's body can be "fixed up" for his open-casket funeral, she refuses: "No, they have to see for themselves."
The film utilizes decades worth of research by filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, whose documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Till in part led to the U.S. Department of Justice reopening the case in 2004. Beauchamp co-wrote the screenplay for Till with Michael Reilly and Chukwu, whose 2019 film Clemency landed lead star Alfre Woodard a BAFTA nomination and the film the U.S. Grand Jury Dramatic Prize at Sundance.
"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," Chukwu said in a statement. "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."
He continued, "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," he added. "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," he said, adding that he hopes the story of Mamie will help viewers realize "the power within ourselves to continue to fight for the change we want to see in the world, just as she did."
Till premieres in select theaters on Oct. 14 and will play everywhere on Oct. 28.
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