‘Till’ focuses on the pain -- and resiliency

A young woman comforts an older woman in a scene from "Till."
“I wanted Alma’s emotional moment to evolve in real time, so we shot it in a long take,” says “Till” director Chinonye Chukwa of the scene in which Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie comforts Whoopi Goldberg as Alma after the death of Mamie’s son.
(Orion Pictures)

In “Till,” there’s a stirring scene with Mamie (Danielle Deadwyler), whose son has been brutally murdered while visiting relatives in Mississippi, consoling her despondent mother, Alma (Whoopi Goldberg), who can’t accept the loss of her grandson Emmett (Jalyn Hall). “Whoopi, Danielle and I talked a lot about the emotional and psychological beats in that scene,” says director Chinonye Chukwu. “I wanted Alma’s emotional moment to evolve in real time, so we shot it in a long take to give them space to find and live in the moment.” It’s a turning point for Mamie as she becomes the matriarch of the family, not allowing her son to die in vain. In framing the galvanizing story, Chukwu paints on a canvas using a humanizing lens as her brush, each scene a window into Mamie’s perspective. Reflections become visual motifs, the lighting emphasizing the beautiful, lush Black skin tones and color palettes enriching the atmosphere with yellow hues deepening the connection to the loss of Emmett. “For me, this needed to be a character-driven story by Mamie,” says Chukwu. “Knowing that informed my directorial decisions in terms of camera placement, framing and composition where we are favoring her emotional experience as opposed to making it a spectacle.”