Emmett Till’s biopic is coming amid renewed scrutiny over the case

The trailer for Till comes after the discovery of an unserved arrest warrant against his accuser and a leaked draft of her memoir in which she called herself a "victim."

Orion Pictures

The tragic story of Emmett Till is getting the biopic treatment. On what would have been Till’s 81st birthday and just weeks after his infamous accuser made headlines again, the trailer for Till has been released, offering a glimpse into the story of the 14-year-old, whose 1955 lynching after being falsely accused of harassing a white woman shocked the country.

The early look is narrated by and told from the perspective of Till’s mother Mamie Till-Mobley. She became a prominent activist after Till’s death, and insisted his funeral be open casket to force the nation to confront the brutality of its racism. Till is an adaptation of Till-Mobley’s book and play The Face of Emmett Till and also follows Women of the Movement, an ABC miniseries from earlier this year that chronicled Till-Mobley’s life and activism.

The trailer comes after renewed scrutiny of Carolyn Bryant Donham, Till’s accuser, in recent weeks. In June, an unserved arrest warrant that levied kidnapping charges against Donham, who is still alive, was discovered in a courthouse basement, prompting Till’s family and others to call for her arrest. (The district attorney declined to charge her.)

Soon after, a draft of Donham’s memoir, I Am More Than a Wolf Whistle, was leaked. In it, she claims that she had attempted to protect Till after her husband and other white men had kidnapped him and writes that she “always felt like a victim as well as Emmett.” She still insisted that Till had grabbed her waist after whistling at her in Donham’s family general store in Mississippi, an account that has been disputed for decades.

Donham’s husband and his half-brother were acquitted in a 1955 trial after Till’s body was found by boys fishing in the Tallahatchie River. The following year, in an interview they sold for $4,000, the two men admitted to the fact that they had tortured and killed Till.

Till may reignite debates around what some see as a tired and potentially harmful over-emphasis on Black trauma in popular media. Nevertheless, the reignited controversy around Donham and the very fact that she is still alive and well is a jarring reminder of just how close in time the Jim Crow era is to modern America — and perhaps how stories like Till’s remain frighteningly pertinent.

Till is slated for release in theaters in October.