“Clemency” director Chinonye Chukwu is set to direct a feature film drama about the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till and how his mother Mamie Till Mobley worked to help start a civil rights movement in the aftermath of his death.
This year marks the 65th anniversary of the 1955 death of Till, and Chukwu’s film will be based on the research of documentary filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, who spent 27 years investigating the kidnapping, torture and murder of Till for whistling at a white woman. Beauchamp’s work culminated in getting the Department of Justice to reopen the case in 2004.
His research is the basis of the screenplay that he co-authored along with Chukwu and Michael J. P. Reilly. Beauchamp developed a relationship with Mobley and Till’s cousin Simeon Wright, who was an eyewitness to Till’s kidnapping and served as a consultant on the project before his death in 2017. And the narrative film will center on how Mobley made the decision to show her son’s mutilated body in an open casket.
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The Till story will be produced by Beauchamp, Barbara Broccoli, Whoopi Goldberg, Thomas K. Levine, Reilly and Frederick Zollo. It’s scheduled for production in 2021 to coincide with what would have been Till’s 80th birthday.
“I am deeply honored to be telling this story and working with such an incredible producing team,” Chukwu said in a statement. “Amidst the pain and brutality that is inherent to Mamie and Emmett’s story, I intend to delve deeply into their humanities, the love and joy they shared, and the activist consciousness that grows within Mamie as she seeks justice for her son.”
“Today the return of open racism reminds us that the real danger is in NOT telling Emmett Till’s story. Chinonye Chukwu taking the helm as our director is an opportunity for us to step forward artfully and without fear to tell the truth. We could not be in better hands,” Goldberg said in a statement.
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“I’m truly excited that we are teaming up with Chinonye to tell this powerful story. With Emmett Till’s name being spoken today among Black Lives Matter chants, it is more important than ever to understand why this senseless murder took place and the selfless actions taken by my dear friend Mrs Mamie Till Mobley that led to the mobilization of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement,” Beauchamp said in a statement. “This isn’t a movie, it’s a movement.”
In 2019, Chukwu became the first Black woman to receive the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival for her film “Clemency” starring Alfre Woodard and Aldis Hodge.
Congress is currently in the process of ratifying the “Emmett Till Antilynching Act,” which establishes a new criminal rights violation for lynching. The recently opened Smithsonian Museum of African American History & Culture also houses a room dedicated to Till’s original glass-topped casket.
Endeavor Content is representing worldwide rights.
Deadline first reported the news of the project.