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Emotional 'Till' trailer shows Emmett Till's legacy and his mother's fight for justice

In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered by two white men in Mississippi. The trailer for the upcoming biopic was released on what would have been Till's 81st birthday.

The story of Emmett Till's tragic murder and his mother, Mamie Till's, ensuing fight for justice is being told in a new biopic.

The trailer for "Till" sets up what is sure to be an emotional film about this harrowing incident from American history, which became a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement.

In the film, Danielle Deadwyler (“The Harder They Fall”) portrays Mamie; Jalyn Hall plays Emmett, her only child. The film is slated to premiere on Oct. 14.

In August 1955, 14-year-old Till traveled from his hometown of Chicago to Mississippi to visit his cousins. While there, a white woman named Carolyn Bryant Donham accused Till of making unwanted advances toward her.

Roy Bryant, Donham's husband at the time, and J.W. Milam, her half-brother, kidnapped Till from his relative's home, beat him to the point of disfigurement, shot him and put his body into the Tallahatchie River, per PBS.

Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were acquitted after an all-white, all-male jury deliberated for an hour, NBC News reported. After their acquittal, Bryant and Milam sold their story to "Look" Magazine in which they admitted to the crime, per the Associated Press.

Till's murder laid bare the racism and danger of the Jim Crow South, and the power white residents wielded. In the trailer, Mamie refers to the difference between the North, where Till lived, and the South, where he was going: "He doesn’t understand how different things are in Mississippi.”

Mamie Till, Emmett Till's mother, held a five-day open casket funeral in Chicago. “She (Mamie) wanted people to understand what hate did to him,” Deborah Watts, a cousin of Till’s and the founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation told the Clarion Ledger. “She had an open-casket funeral so no one would forget what hate looked like.”  

At a press conference, Director Chinonye Chukwu said Mamie and her work as an activist are the anchor of the film.

“I knew that the way that I needed to tell this story was through the emotional journey of Mamie,” Chukwu said at a Thursday press conference for "Till," per Entertainment Weekly. “We’ve got to keep it focused on Mamie and her relationship with Emmett."

Speaking to Vanity Fair, Deadwyler said she originally "didn't want" the role of Mamie. “I’ve been a load-carrier for a long time,” Deadwyler said. “And Mamie Till Mobley is a pure example of a Black woman carrying that invisible load we always carry.”

Emmett Till lies on his bed in 1954.
Emmett Till lies on his bed in 1954.Bettmann Archive via Getty Images

She also expressed her admiration for how the real-life figure used the "most tragic" moment in her life to fuel activism.

“What you’re experiencing is this very concentrated moment of what it means to be a mother in such a state, to become a figure in the most tragic moment,” Deadwyler said. “To have stood as strong-willed as she did, and with such grace in the face of real f---ing terror— there’s no other term for it but real f---ing terror — is amazing."

Equally top of mind for Chukwu was to show Till as he lived. Chukwu, who also co-wrote the film, spoke to Till's surviving family members to inform his depiction in the movie. At the press conference, Chukwu said it was “important that we see, feel, and hear him be a boy before what would inevitably happen to him.”

67 years after his murder, "Till" will bring this story to the forefront. As Mamie says in the trailer, it is everyone's business: “The lynching of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all."