Everything We Know About Biographical Drama ‘Till’: Trailer, Release Date, Cast & More

There are certain events in history that we need to make sure people remember, again and again, even when they’re painful and devastating. Because, as James Baldwin said, “It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

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Remembering is important—especially in these times when it seems like the hard-won battles and rights that so many risked their lives to fight for are being ripped away. And in the case of the horrific murder of Emmett Till, we don’t have to remember as far back as people like to think. It happened in 1955, and for what should have been only his 85th birthday, MGM released the official trailer for its upcoming biographical drama centering on Emmitt Till’s murder, and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley’s fight for justice. The trailer is absolutely gut-wrenching, and as we await the Till movie release date, here’s what we know about the movie so far.

Trigger warning for extreme violence and racism.

Who was Emmitt Till? Born on July 25th, 1941, Emmett Louis Till lived with his family in Chicago. In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett went on a trip to visit his cousins in Mississippi. As shown in the trailer, before his trip, Till’s mother, Mamie, had warned him to keep safe because of the intolerance, segregation, and dangers in the south. She was worried for good reason, as during the trip, Till was abducted, tortured, and murdered, after being accused of allegedly flirting with a white woman, 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant.

On August 24th, Till and his cousins were standing outside of a store in Money, Mississippi, owned by Bryant and her husband, Roy. What happened next is unclear, as Bryant’s story changed multiple times, and there are contradictory details between her statements and her husband and his brother’s.

What we do know is that Emmett entered the store alone, his cousins outside, and bought some candy—where Carolyn Bryant was behind the counter. Witnesses claimed Till said, “Bye Baby,” as he left the store. Bryant claimed that he flirted with her, and later, would claim that he grabbed her, wolf-whistled, and made sexual comments and gestures toward her. However, in 2017, she would recant this version of the story, saying that Till never touched her, nor did he threaten her—not that it matters. There could never be any justification for the violence Till suffered, and we all know the real reason was racism.

When her husband, Roy Bryant, found out about the alleged incident, he and his brother, J.W. Milam, went to the house where Till had been staying with his great uncle, abducting and murdering him. Later, after being found not guilty by trial, the brothers would sell their story to a magazine, admitting fully to the crime. Emmett’s body was not found until three days later in the Tallahatchie River. He was beaten so severely that he could only be identified by a ring he wore. He was fourteen years old.

His mother, a pillar of strength and defiance, requested (through her profound devastation and grief) that his body be sent back home to Chicago. She ordered an open-casket funeral for the whole world to see the injustice inflicted on her son. This, her refusal to let the world look away from what had been done to Emmett (and was representative of so many others), is widely thought to be a major spark and turning point in the civil rights movement. 100 days after his death, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, and later, said that she thought of going to the back, but thoughts of what happened to Emmett Till made her stay put.

Till Plot and Official Synopsis

The official Till trailer, so far, shows the broad strokes of Till’s story: his mother’s (played by Danielle Deadwyler) initial hesitance to let him go to Mississippi in the first place, an ominous glance at how Bryant forcibly entered his great uncle’s home, and the protests that sparked after his death. Jalyn Hall, who plays Emmett, does an excellent job at bringing the young teen to life—and making that presence felt is important when people are all too quick to think of events like this as occurring in an extremely distant past, despite the reality of how relevant they are today.

The film’s official synopsis reads as follows:

Till is a profoundly emotional and cinematic film about the true story of Mamie Till Mobley’s relentless pursuit of justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, who, in 1955, was lynched while visiting his cousins in Mississippi. In Mamie’s poignant journey of grief turned to action, we see the universal power of a mother’s ability to change the world.

Till Cast and Crew

Joining Deadwyler and Hall are Frankie Faison, Whoopi Goldberg, Tosin Cole, and Sean Patrick Thomas. Leading the cast and crew is its director, Chinonye Chukwu, who also co-wrote the script. She is best known for her critically-acclaimed film Clemency and for being the first Black woman to win the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Director’s Statement

Chukwu released a poignant director’s statement alongside the film’s trailer, which explained her ultimate goal of approaching Till from a maternal point of view. She writes,

“When I was approached to write and direct a story about Emmett Till, I found myself drawn to a singular figure at the center of his orbit. I saw an opportunity to subvert expectations and approach the narrative through another lens—from the maternal point of view of Mamie Till Mobley. Had it not been for Mamie, her son’s memory would have evaporated into thin air. She was the catalyst for a modern day civil rights movement that has laid a formidable framework for future activists and Freedom Fighters. I felt compelled to champion Mamie’s legacy and center her in the spotlight where she rightfully belongs.”

She further describes Mamie’s story as one of resilience and unspeakable devastation. She also describes it as a story of love.

“The crux of this story is not about the traumatic, physical violence inflicted upon Emmett—which is why I refused to depict such brutality in the film—but 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. Amidst the inherent pain and heartbreak, it was critical for me to ground their affection throughout the film. The cinematic language and tone of TILL was deeply rooted in the balance between loss in the absence of love; the inconsolable grief in the absence of joy; and the embrace of Black life alongside the heart wrenching loss of a child.”

Till Release Date

Till will open in theaters with a limited release on October 14, 2022.

(featured image: MGM)


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Author
Danielle Baranda
Danielle is a twenty-something writer and postgrad student based in the Philippines. She loves books, movies, her cat, and traveling. In her spare time, she enjoys shooting 35mm film and going to concerts.