The film “Till” is a historical biography drama that details the experiences of Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of an African-American 14-year-old boy from Chicago, Illinois, named Emmett.
The two became significant figures in American history when Emmett was kidnapped, beaten, and lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955. His body was mutilated and barely recognizable, but his mother decided to have an open casket at his funeral so that the rest of the world would feel her pain and see how inhumanely Black people were being treated in the South.
The film first premiered at New York Film Festival in October 2022. It was directed by Chinonye Chukwu, a Nigerian-American woman whose former most notable work was a film titled Clemency.
In an interview on NPR, Chukwu said, “Mamie and other Black women are often overlooked or erased from history. But Mamie’s decision to hold an open-casket funeral for her son, and to publish the photos of his mutilated face, served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement.”
Jet Magazine’s photographer David Jackson took the famous photo of Mamie looking down at Emmett. Chukwu also worked with film writer Keith Beauchamp, who conducted 27 years of research on Till’s case. According to IMDB, “His [Beachamp’s] efforts led to the reopening of the case by the United States Department of Justice in 2004.”
Danielle Deadwyler played the role of Mamie Till-Mobley. When asked how she felt about getting the role in an interview with the LA Times, she said, “There was only a split second to be joyful. I have the job and the honor, but also the responsibility. I know that responsibility deeply because I am a child of the South. I was anxious and nervous.”
Deadwyler was supported by a great lineup of actors, including Whoopie Goldberg, Sean Patrick Thomas and Frankie Faison. The role of Carolyn Bryant, the white woman who accused Till, was played by Haley Bennet.
In an interview with Variety magazine, Bennett said, “I don’t want to live in ignorance. If I can learn something about the history of America, then I am not standing still. What I loved about this story was the power of a mother’s love. Her need for justice ignited a revolution, but there still has not been justice for Emmett Till.”
I enjoyed the film and how the story was portrayed from the mother’s perspective. I connected with her determination to prove to herself that her son did not die for no reason. It was very difficult for her to deal with her pain and mourning, and to turn that energy into something greater was very inspiring.
I learned about Emmett Till when I was younger, but I never understood his mother’s struggle with his death and how she used it to create change.
Mamie Till died in 2003 following a lifetime dedicated to making life better for people of color. This year, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act was passed by Congress, making lynching a federal hate crime.
This is a must-see movie that teaches a lot about unknown historical figures.