A film to debut in the fall will follow the story of Mamie Till Mobley and her fight for justice after the lynching death of her son Emmett Till in 1955.
“Till”, written and directed by Chinonye Chukwu, will be shown during opening weekend of the New York Film Festival from Sept. 30 to Oct. 16 at the Lincoln Center in New York City. The premiere and screening were announced Monday on what would have been Till’s 81st birthday.
Deborah Watts, co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and a Till family member, said the film is the story of Mamie Till Mobley’s love for her son and how that powered her fight for justice and commitment to the truth.
“Seeing this film made is yet another milestone for our family, and a testament to Mamie’s fight for justice and to our commitment to legacy,” Watts said in a statement. “The power of history turning tragedy into triumph is something Mamie would have wanted all of us to do.”
The film’s trailer, released this week, opens with Mamie Till Mobley reflecting on her son’s death as scenes recreated from history play: Till saying goodbye as he boarded the train from Chicago to Mississippi; Till’s kidnapping in the middle of the night; and Mamie Till Mobley seeing her son’s body.
That trailer also shows her insisting on having an open casket for her son’s funeral. Photographs of Till’s damaged body published in Black publications Jet and the Chicago Defender showed people across the nation what happened to him and helped galvanize the civil rights movement.
The film’s release comes nearly 70 years after Till’s death, and family members say justice has not been served.
The U.S. Department of Justice has reopened the case several times, but its investigations did not result in new charges.
Family members say new evidence uncovered in recent weeks should be used to charge Carolyn Bryant Donham as an accomplice in Till’s death. Donham, then 21 in 1955, accused Till of making advances toward her and grabbing her at the shop where she worked.
Her former husband, Roy Bryant, and his brother-in-law J.W. Milam kidnapped, beat and shot the teenager and threw his body into the Tallahatchie River. The men were acquitted of the crime but later admitted to killing Till.
In June, the original arrest warrant listing her as “Mrs. Roy Bryant” alongside Roy Bryant and Milam was discovered in the basement of the Leflore County courthouse in Greenwood.
This month, the Associated Press received a copy of Donham’s unpublished memoir. In it, she said she didn’t know what would happen to Till after accusing him. Donham said when her former husband and his half brother brought the teenager to her in the middle of the night to identify, she denied it was him and claimed Till identified himself.
As of now, there aren’t any plans to reopen Till’s case. The attorney general’s office told the Associated Press there isn’t new evidence in the case. Leflore County District Dewayne Richardson, who would handle any new prosecution, did not respond to a request for comment.
In the film, Danielle Deadwyler stars as Mamie Till Mobley and Jalyn Hall as Emmett Till. Frankie Faison and Whoopi Goldberg star as Mobley’s parents, John and Alma Carthan.
The cast also includes Sean Patrick Thomas, who plays Mamie’s husband Gene Mobley; John Douglas Thompson as Mose Wright, the great uncle who Till stayed with in the Delta; and Haley Bennett as Carolyn Bryant Donham.
The film has several producers including Goldberg and Keith Beauchamp, a friend of the Till family who created the 2005 documentary “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till” that led to one of the DOJ’s investigations of Till’s death.
Dates for the premier and community screenings will be announced at a later time as part of the lineup and schedule for the New York Film Festival.
Early access passes for the New York Film Festival are on sale. Tickets for the general public will go on sale Sept. 19 at 12 p.m. ET.