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February 2005


by Kam Williams



Director: Keith Beauchamp
Format: Black & White, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Velocity / Thinkfilm
DVD Release Date: February 28, 2006
Run Time: 70 minutes
DVD Features:
Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
Commentary by Director Keith Beauchamp
The featurette The Impact of the Emmett Till Case in American History and Today from the Civil Rights Project of Harvard University



    Headline: Documentary Takes Look at Shameful Chapter of Southern History

In August of 1955, Mamie Till sent her 14 year-old son, Emmett, to visit relatives in Mississippi. Raised in Chicago, far from the repressive social structure of the South, the boy was unaware that he'd made an unforgivable mistake when he reportedly whistled at a white girl he found attractive.

The lynching party which came for the young lad in the middle of the night left his body utterly unrecognizable. In trying to identify the body, Mamie looked at his disfigured face which was so blown apart that she could see clear through his head.

Back then, due to America's racist legal system, blacks had no recourse against this sort of terroristic intimidation. And so the murderers got off scot-free, after an all-white jury found them not guilty after laughingly brief deliberations. The defendant even bragged about their exploits in a Look Magazine interview where they blamed Till for not knowing his place.

For about a half century, the case remained dormant, primarily because of the Constitutional protection against Double Jeopardy, being tried twice for the same crime. However, in recent years, the Feds have started hauling acquitted perpetrators back into court to charge them with separate Civil Rights violations.

Now, filmmaker Keith Beauchamp has successfully embarrassed the Feds into re-opening the case. For in researching and conducting interviews for his damning documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Till, he managed to coax several critical eyewitnesses, previously too afraid of reprisals to talk, to describe for his camera exactly what had transpired on the night in question.

The film also features some sweet moments of reflection by the recently-deceased Mamie Till during which she wistfully reminisces about the intelligent, curious and animated son taken away from her so brutally and so senselessly. A touching but overdue expose' of lynching as a shameful stain on the country's legacy.

Excellent (4 stars)