Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices: Emmett Till biopic to focus on mother’s civil rights activism

A biographical film about Emmett Till, a Black boy lynched at the age of 14, and his mother’s struggle for justice following his murder will be released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in theaters nationwide on Oct. 28, after an initial limited release on Oct. 14.

“Till” is set in the 1950s, covering the events of Till’s kidnapping, torture and lynching — revenge for allegedly wolf-whistling at and flirting with the grocery store cashier Carolyn Bryant, a white woman. 

Bryant exaggerated the encounter to her husband Roy, who — enraged — enlisted his half-brother, J.W. Milam, to help abduct the boy from his great-uncle’s house. The men then forced Till to drag a cotton gin fan to the Tallahatchie River. They beat him savagely, gouging out one of his eyes before finally shooting him in the head and tossing him into the river, tied to the cotton gin fan with barbed wire.

Till’s corpse was found rotting in the river a few days later, bloated and so mutilated beyond recognition he could only be identified by a ring he wore with his father’s initials carved into it.

Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, famously demanded an open casket funeral, so the attendees could see the extent of the brutality of his murder, a historical accuracy included in the trailer for the film.

[Related: Black Voices: The anti-lynching bill in the U.S. House of Representatives is long overdue]

The film’s trailer depicts the widespread horror and outraged reactions as the grotesque images of Till circulate globally. The trailer was released on July 25, which would have been Till’s 81st birthday. 

Danielle Deadwyler stars as Mobley, with the film focusing on her activism within the growing civil rights movement. The movement was partly propelled by Mobley’s decision to have an open-casket funeral and show the world what the racists had done to her only son.

Audiences took to social media to discuss the potential of the film and to weigh the emotional consequences of viewing such traumatic content.

Some Twitter users shared that they found the film’s depiction of racist violence disheartening.

“They depressed me but they also filled me with a rage that is not healthy. I endure these movies, not enjoy them.”

[Related: Black Voices: I’ve had enough of only Black trauma media to last a lifetime]

Other people agreed, but they admit there are those who need to see these films and television shows.

While some may avoid the film due to its brutal content, others are eager for its release, tweeting their excitement and hope for the truth to be brought to light.

The already divided attitude toward the film indicates that when it does release in October, it’s sure to spark and add to the essential conversation about Emmett Till.

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