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‘Till’ is a must see

“Till” (Rated B)

Cast: Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Whoopi Goldberg, Tosin Cole, Sean Patrick Thomas

Genre: Drama

Where to watch: In Theaters

Dwight’s Rating:

Eight months!

Just since March 2022 – eight months!

That’s when lynching finally became a federal crime in the United States. Eight months ago!

How’s that possible?

Anti-lynching legislation was tabled as early as 1918, but strong opposition from the southern states and Southern Democrats made that a non-starter. There were numerous other attempts since then.

But nothing significant happened until 2020 when the Emmett Till Antilynching Act passed in the US House (there were actually four votes against it). A revised bill passed in the House in February 2022 and subsequently in the Senate in March, with US President Joe Biden signing it into law on March 29.

Eight months ago!

The legislation is named for 14-year-old Emmett Till of Chicago, who was brutally lynched in 1955 while visiting his cousins in Mississippi. His story became one of the most famous US lynching cases in history, and was a major catalyst in the rise of the American Civil Rights Movement.

But that well-publicized case was 67-years ago. Even while growing up on a steady diet of American movies and television, the first time I’d heard any mention of Emmett Till was in college in the 90s – in a sociology class, I believe. The next time after that wasn’t until “60 Minutes” did an extensive piece in 2004.

Since then, though, the Till story appears to be having a moment. The incident has been referenced a whole lot more in the past decade or so, and much more prominently in the media. Just this past January, it was the topic of the ABC miniseries “Women of the Movement” with six episodes aired over three weeks.

And now we have “Till” which, like “Women of the Movement”, tells the story from the perspective of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.

However, no matter how many times you watch a movie or TV show or documentary or news piece about Emmett Till, it will still be a challenging and emotional experience. And if you’re thinking, “you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”, nothing could be further from the truth, especially with this new film.

Nigerian Director Chinonye Chukwu has crafted a very thoughtful and poignant picture. It’s exceptionally stylish and sophisticated, from the attention to detail with period-correct fashions and products, to the composition of each frame of film and shots angles.

Chukwu co-wrote the film along with Michael Reilly and with Keith Beauchamp, who’s been researching and documenting the Till story for decades.

While the bones of the movie are great, it’s the performances here that really make “Till” a must see. The cast, which includes Whoopi Goldberg, is top notch. But all eyes will be on the woman playing Till’s mother Mamie, the amazing Danielle Deadwyler.

Never heard of her? Well, you need to remember her name.

You might have seen her before. She’s had small parts in a number of TV shows and movies. The first time I saw Deadwyler she was playing a colorful street-wise and morally-challenged character on Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and Have Nots” (don’t judge me!). Sometimes the way a role is written, and the instructions an actor gets from a director, can make you jump to unfair conclusions about a thespian.

So, let’s just say, Deadwyler has unbelievable range. And this marks a truly star-making performance.

From scenes like in the funeral home when she examines her son’s badly disfigured body, to the courtroom, in which Director Chukwu decides our focus for the entire sequence should be only on Deadwyler on the stand – no cut aways – it’s all incredibly powerful. Deadwyler is incredibly powerful! These are some of the most powerful moments on film this year!

“Till” proves though that there’s much work to do. Lynchings might not be prevalent these days, but there are still people murdered because of their race or for being different.

We can’t allow this story to go out of fashion or get to the point that it slips out of memory again. “Till” needs to be playing in schools. It needs to make people – of all ages – uncomfortable, so that lessons are learned and mistakes are never repeated.

For it to take 67-years for us to get here, it’s clear the world still has a very long way to go.

• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email dwight@nasguard.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.

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Dwight Strachan

Dwight is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff.

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