“That smell is my son’s body reeking of racial hatred. Now I want America to bear witness,” says Mamie Till Bradley (Danielle Deadwyler) in a new trailer for “Till,” Chinonye Chukwu’s follow-up to “Clemency.” Already generating Oscar buzz, “Till” recounts the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago who was lynched in Mississippi, and the aftermath of the hate crime. Chukwu’s film tells the hitherto “untold story,” as the director herself put it, of Emmett’s mother, Mamie, who channeled her grief into a campaign for civil rights and racial justice in honor of her son’s memory, becoming a “warrior for justice,” who inspired countless others, including Chukwu herself, the director revealed in a statement.
“Had it not been for Mamie, her son’s memory would have evaporated into thin air,” the filmmaker reflected. “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.”
Rather than fixating on the brutality inflicted upon Emmett (Jalyn Hall) – which she consciously omitted in film – Chukwu focuses on Mamie’s remarkable journey of healing and activism in the wake of unimaginable tragedy. Ultimately, “Till” is about the tremendous power of a mother’s love. As we see in trailer, Mamie is, above all, a doting mother who wants the best for her young son and to protect him from the ravages of racism she experienced. “I don’t want him seeing himself the way those people will see him down there,” Mamie tells her mother ahead of Emmett’s departure to the American South.
“[Mamie] is grounded by the love for her child, for at its core, ‘Till’ is a love story,” Chukwu emphasizes. “Amidst the inherent pain and heartbreak, it was critical for me to ground their affection throughout the film.”
Chukwu is best known for “Clemency,” for which she made history as the first Black woman to receive the Grand Jury Prize for the U.S. Dramatic category at Sundance. The 2019 drama follows Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard), a prison warden who develops a bond with the death-row inmate she is sanctioned to kill, forcing her to confront the psychological and emotional consequences of her profession.
Deadwyler’s credits include “Station Eleven” and “P-Valley.”
“Till” just made its world premiere at New York Film Festival. It opens in select theaters October 14 and everywhere October 28.