‘There’s joy and love alongside the sadness and pain’: Chinonye Chukwu on directing Till
A film about the brutal 1955 racist attack on Emmett Till has been a long time coming. Its director talks about overcoming Hollywood’s reluctance, on-set therapy and her ‘non-negotiables’
In the late 1990s, when the idea of a film about the lynching of Emmett Till was first floated, the woman who would eventually direct it was in high school. Chinonye Chukwu was a depressed, daylight-deprived Alaskan teenager obsessed with Julia Roberts romcoms.
“Obsessed. She had the back-to-back trifecta: Runaway Bride, Notting Hill, My Best Friend’s Wedding,” says the 37-year-old, as she pours herself a cup of herbal tea in her London hotel room. “I would rewrite the film’s story in my journal, and either make myself the protagonist, or somebody else who looked like me … It was my escape, y’know?”