By Latrice Adams and K’Imani Rispus
Richard Wright Public Charter School, Grade 11
Local students joined the cast of Till, an upcoming movie telling the heartbreaking but heroic story of Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, for a screening at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in September.
The movie comes to theaters on October 14. Audiences watch the story unfold from Mamie Till’s perspective, demonstrating perseverance and strength as she comes to terms with her son’s death.
BazanED invited students from Anacostia, Dunbar, Ballou, and Richard Wright Schools to preview the movie at the museum’s Oprah Winfrey Theater.
Emmett Till was an African American 14-year-old boy brutally murdered by two white men who believed he was out of line for complimenting a white woman, the wife of one of the white men. The movie shows the harmful impact of racism and white supremacy on African Americans in the Southern United States in the 1950s.
Before the movie trailer release, students discovered that the woman Emmett Till complimented, Carolyn Bryant Donham, now in her 80s, lives somewhere in Kentucky. In June, CBS News reported that Carolyn Bryant Donham’s false testimony no doubt led to Till’s murder. Most recently, researchers investigating the killing and court records found a 67-year-old arrest warrant for Carolyn Bryant. It was buried in a box of files in the courthouse basement. The warrant was never served.
Though the film follows the death of Emmett Till and the ruthlessness of the people of Money, Mississippi, and the racist South overall, Director Chinonye Chukwu said she did not want to show graphic scenes of Till’s death. Viewers focus more on the change Mamie Till-Mobley contributed to the civil rights movement, not how Emmett died. Chukwu wanted to tell the story of how one woman, Mamie Till-Mobley, unintentionally accelerated the Civil Rights struggle as she sought justice for her son, Emmett.
Actor Jalyn Hall plays Emmett Till, and actor Danielle Deadwyler plays Mamie Till-Mobley. They both give strong and compelling performances, which left many in tears. Jalyn Hall was perfect for the role as he displayed heartfelt acting connecting viewers to the joy and youthfulness of Emmett. His acting skills and love for the story made the movie as respectful and relatable as possible. The film conveyed a true feeling of experiencing those heartbreaking moments with Mamie Till through Deadwyler’s powerful performance of a mother’s love and Chukwu’s close-up camera perspectives.
Both actors described the experience of working on the film as “amazing” and “intensely emotional.” Hall explained that they even had a therapist on the set just to talk to them and process their feelings. Chukwu said of directing Till, “I loved the experience of filming such a spiritual and expressive story.”