The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till


Color/B&W, NR (mature themes, language), 70 min., DVD or VHS $29.99 DVD: director’s commentary, featurette. Street: Feb. 28, Prebook: Feb. 2. First Run: L, Aug. 2005, <$1 mil>. Director: Keith Beauchamp


A truly harrowing portrait of racism and injustice, this impassioned documentary helped to reopen the case it investigates, that is the 1955 beating and murder of Chicago teen Emmett Till. Till whistled at a white woman while visiting relatives in Mississippi and suffered a ghastly fate as a result. The film offers the testimony of eyewitnesses, family members and civil rights leaders who clearly remember the legal miscarriage that occurred when the two murderers were brought before a court in Mississippi and exonerated. (In addition to an ample amount of evidence, the two confessed to Look magazine after they were cleared legally.) Two heroes emerged during the trial: Till’s uncle (shown in this documentary in newsreels), who identified the men in court, thereby putting his own life in jeopardy; and Till’s mother, who was interviewed extensively by director Beauchamp before her recent death and discusses her controversial and powerful decision to have an open-casket funeral for her son to illustrate to Northerners what was occurring in the South. The evidence assembled by Beauchamp is so incriminating that it spurred a new look at the case in 2004, which could result in indictments later this year. Untold Story is profoundly disturbing and deserves a wider audience than it had in theaters, as the film is a valuable document of the sort of inhuman situations that spawned the civil rights movement. –Ed Grant