Today, July 25, on what would have been Emmett Till’s 81st birthday, several announcements have been made about “Till,” Chinonye Chukwu’s historical drama about Till’s lynching and how his mother Mamie Till Mobley’s struggle for justice galvanized the civil rights movement. The trailer has arrived and a press release confirmed “Till” will world premiere at the New York Film Festival’s (NYFF) 60th edition, with plans to host community screenings for high school students.
In 1955, at the age of 14, the Chicagoan Till was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, when he was abducted, tortured, and shot in the back of the head by Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam. His body was then thrown into the Tallahatchie River. Till’s killers believed he had flirted with Bryant’s wife. They were acquitted by an all-white jury and later admitted to the murder, knowing that double jeopardy would shield them from punishment. Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman Till allegedly flirted with, has never faced consequences for her role in the crimes.
Mobley helped revitalize the civil rights movement by demanding an open-casket funeral for her son — she wanted “the world to see what they did to [her] baby.” Tens of thousands of people viewed Till’s body, and pictures of his casket and funeral were circulated across the country. Mobley also shared the story of her son on a successful NAACP tour.
“Till” is directed by Chukwu, who wrote the screenplay with Michael Reilly and Keith Beauchamp. Danielle Deadwyler (“Station Eleven”) stars as Mobley and Jalyn Hall (“All American”) as Till. Whoopi Goldberg co-stars and serves as producer.
The film will make its premiere at Alice Tully Hall during NYFF, which runs September 30-October 16. Chukwu, the cast, and the producers will be attending.
“To ensure this film can be seen by younger generations across the country, the New York Film Festival, [‘Till’ producer] MGM’s Orion Pictures, and [distributor] United Artists Releasing will collaborate with community partners to invite high school students to special screenings with the filmmakers during NYFF60,” the source details. “In addition, the film and post-screening conversations will be shown simultaneously to students in cities across the US, bringing part of American history and the New York Film Festival to new audiences.”
The community screening dates are TBA.
“I’m incredibly proud and excited to premiere my film ‘Till’ at the 60th New York Film Festival,” Chukwu said. “As a filmmaker, to be embraced by NYFF for this particular feature and to have the opportunity to screen ‘Till’ for youth nationwide is exhilarating. Considering its storied history of programming highly respected cinema, I’m deeply humbled to be in the company of filmmakers I’ve long admired.”
“We cannot wait for audiences everywhere to see the poignant, revealing, heartbreaking yet inspiring film that is ‘Till,’” stated Deborah Watts, cousin of Mamie and Emmett Till and co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation. “This film centers my cousin Mamie Till Mobley in a startling, powerful way — it focuses not just on Mamie’s grief, but also on her heroic efforts to get justice for her son, Emmett. For people who fear that they will be traumatized by this story, audiences should know it is first and foremost the story of a mother’s love. Some will even be surprised by Mamie’s fearless commitment to showing the truth. Seeing this film made is yet another milestone for our family, and a testament to Mamie’s fight for justice and to our commitment to legacy. The power of history turning tragedy into triumph is something Mamie would have wanted all of us to do.”
Chukwu became the first Black woman to win Sundance’s Grand Jury prize with “Clemency,” the portrait of a morally conflicted prison warden who oversees executions. Her other credits include “alaskaLand” and “Sorry for Your Loss.”
“Till” will be in theaters in October. Check out the trailer below.