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‘Till’ opens nationwide Friday

On Friday, the based-on-real-life drama Till hits theaters nationwide.

The film stars Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother-turned-activist of murdered Chicago teen Emmett Till, who was abducted and lynched in Mississippi in 1955 for the “crime” of whistling at a white woman.

Director Chinonye Chukwu tells ABC Audio she made the conscious decision to avoid the brutality of the event, but instead show the aftermath. Till-Mobley did, as well, choosing to have Emmett’s body, and what he endured, on display. The public outcry over the resulting photos shocked much of the nation and paved the way for the civil rights struggle in the U.S.

“This story that I decided to tell is about Mamie and her journey,” the filmmaker insists. “And so it … was not necessary to show the physical violence inflicted upon Emmett … but what was important was to show the body as an extension of Mamie’s decision that, you know, she made in 1955. But to do so in a way that was intentional and sparing yet effective.”

Deadwyler says of the crime, “I feel like people don’t know as much as they think they know from the history books. I feel like … certain states don’t want you to know the history from the history books.”

Jalyn Hall portrays Emmett; the actor is the same age Till was when he was murdered. “Oftentimes we forget he was just a 14-year-old boy, you know, who had dreams, goals, a personality that was loving. He loved to dance. He loved to sing. He loved his relationship with his mom … So it was…just that authentic joy as a kid, which was easy for me because it’s easy to see yourself in this beautiful spirit.”

In June, ABC News launched the podcast Reclaimed: The Story of Mamie Till-Mobley, which is available now on all major platforms.

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