directed by Keith A. Beauchamp
by Alex Jackson For most of us Americans, our view of the pre-civil rights movement South has focused more on the sun than on the storm. While Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks are an established part of our cultural history, the lynching of Emmett Louis Till has more or less floundered in relative obscurity despite being just as if not more essential to racial progress. We understand, in a perfunctory way, that those who led the civil rights movement were heroes, but our understanding of what they were fighting against is diffused and vague. So... Martin Luther King, Jr. made it so that blacks could sit at the front of the bus and use the same water fountains as whites? That is essentially all that this period of history has come to mean in a society that believes children should be protected from the uglier facts of history at the cost of retaining an ignorance of a backyard holocaust. The greatest achievement of The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, perhaps its only real achievement, is that it provides some sort of visual record of this time and place. The film works on the most primitive level of documentary cinema: it educates you about something important that has otherwise been grossly underexposed.