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‘That’s Not a Story That Can Be Told Through the Lens of Joy’: ‘Till’ Director Sparks Debate About Black Trauma Films After Saying the Movie Highlights Emmett Till’s Joy

Joy is likely not an emotion that comes to mind when reflecting on the tragic killing of Emmett Till. By now, most people know about the 14-year-old’s brutal murder that took place in Mississippi in Aug. 1955.

His story has been told time and time again throughout the years. Yet, the latest retelling of the monumental moment in history hopes that focusing on his mother, Mamie Till’s, fight for justice will turn a new leaf in how people view Till’s legacy.  

“The crux of this story is not about the traumatic, physical violence inflicted on Emmett, which is why I refused to depict such brutality in the film. It is about Mamie’s remarkable journey in the aftermath. She is grounded by the love for her child, for at its core, ’Till’ is a love story,” explained director Chinonye Chukwu in a press release.

The film was written by Michael Reilly, Keith Beauchamp and Chukwu, who is pulling double-duty as the film’s director. Starring in the movie is Whoopi Goldberg, Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, and several other recognizable faces. 

A minute-and-a-half-long trailer is currently circulating on social media where Chukwu reiterates that the film will not reenact the violent acts committed against the teen or other Black people. “We’re going to begin and end in a place of joy,” she said as the minute-and-a-half sizzle reel ends. That line about joy resonated with people online, where they debated if it was possible for joy to exist in a reality marred by pain and bloodshed.

“There is no “joy” in the murder of Emmett Till? I’m still searching for the reason this film was made. Who is it for?”

“The Emmett Till story begins with Jim Crow. And ends with a mother ravaged by grief parading her murdered son’s mangled body in an open casket. So America could see what they did to an innocent 14 year old boy. That’s not a story that can be told through the lens of “joy”.

“The fact that y’all don’t wanna see the till movie cuz it’s black trauma but binge watching that white man series…y’all do realize the emmett till anti lynching act was only made april of this year???”

On March 29 of this year, the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Bill became a law more than 60 years after the teen was murdered for allegedly whistling at a white women in the segregated South. The bill’s, which also made lynching a federal hate crime, lays out steep punishment that include: “A fine, a prison term of up to 30 years, or both on an individual who conspires to commit a hate crime offense that results in death or serious bodily injury or that includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.”

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