Chinonye Chukwu and Danielle Deadwyler draw the portrait of an African-American community

Chinonye Chukwu, director ofEmmett Till, in theaters since Wednesday February 8, and Danielle Deadwyler, who plays the role of Mamie Till, the mother of the African-American teenager murdered in 1955, were still among the favorites in their respective categories at the Oscars when they answered our issues. On January 24, they were both conspicuous by their absence from the list of nominations. On his instagram accountthe filmmaker remarked: “We live in a world and work in industries that are so aggressively committed to maintaining the white norm [whiteness] and the perpetuation of a provocative misogyny against black women”.

The misadventure that occurred in the film shows once again that nothing is ever certain in African-American cinema, as the excellent documentary by Elvis Mitchell recently reminded us. That’s dark enough for you! ? ! (available on Netflix). But in the same post Chinonye Chukwu also underlined the joy of making cinema that carries her.

His first feature film, produced ten years ago with contributions from friends and family, is called AlaskaLand, reflection of his childhood spent in Fairbanks, very close to the Arctic Circle. Born in Port Harcourt, in the Niger Delta, 35 years ago, Chinonye Chukwu, daughter of a Nigerian engineer, was 1 year old when she arrived in Alaska with her family. “I must have been 13 when I knew I wanted to make filmsshe recalls. I suffered from seasonal depression, and I looked out my window imagining the world in sequences and shots. » These daydreams of arctic nights led her to film school at Temple University in Philadelphia.

In 2019, after three years of effort, she succeeded in setting up the production of Clemency (released on OCS in 2020), prison drama starring Alfre Woodard, which is attracting the attention of festivals (the film won an award at Sundance) and critics. It was then that the producers ofEmmett Till, including the actress Whoopi Goldberg, submit the project to him, which relates the lynching in 1955 of a boy from Chicago who, at the age of 14, went on vacation to Sumner, in Mississippi, where his family originated. There, a very young girl, white, a waitress in a drugstore, falsely accuses him of impropriety. Emmett is kidnapped; his disfigured corpse will later be found. When his body is brought back to Chicago, Mamie, his mother, decides that the coffin will remain open during the funeral, and authorizes the distribution of images of the body, writing one of the major pages of the civil rights movement.

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