HBO Greenlights Emmett Till Miniseries

Over sixty years after one of the most brutal hate crimes recorded in history, HBO announced that director Steven Caple will direct a mini-series based on this tragic murder of Emmett Till, produced by Jay Z and Will Smith.

The six-hour miniseries has been described as “an immersive and in-depth exploration of the Emmett Till story. Caple will also write the project making this his follow-up effort to his indie drama, The Land. Aaron Kaplan will also produce the project along with Jay Z and Will Smith’s production companies.

There are two other feature film projects in various stages of development also telling the Till story. The first, announced in May of 2015, will be produced by Chaz Ebert, based on the book, “Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America,” co-written by Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley (who passed away in 2003), and journalist Christopher Benson.

Currently, there is no word on the project’s status, although it was scheduled to start production this year in the Mississippi Delta area, and Illinois.

The second Till feature film, announced in late May at the Cannes Film Festival, also in 2015, will be based on the play, “The Face of Emmett Till.”

Skyland Pictures and FireRock Bay Pictures are behind the project, which James Moll (The Last Days) was attached to direct, from a script penned by David Barr III and David Scott Hay, who are also co-producing. And just like the Chaz Ebert project, the play that this film will be based on, was also co-written by Till’s mother, the late Mamie Till-Mobley, along with David Barr III.

“The Face of Emmett Till” is a true-to-life dramatization of the death of Till and the aftermath. The film adaptation was set for an early 2016 shoot in Chicago and Mississippi.

Today’s announcement gives the Jay Z / Will Smith Emmett Till project a huge head start on the other projects and probably makes it the odds on favorite to see the big screen first.

Last year marked the 60th anniversary of the brutal crime, which might explain renewed interest in telling that story on film (all three projects were announced last year, within a few months of each other) – a tragedy that has rightfully been called “the hate crime that changed America” and in fact sparked the Civil Rights movement.

There are several other films currently available that document this dark chapter in our history, including The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, a 2005 documentary directed by Keith Beauchamp; The Murder of Emmett Till, produced and directed by award-winning documentarian Stanley Nelson, which aired on PBS in 2003, and won numerous awards; and DAR HE: The Lynching of Emmett Till, the 2012 docu-drama from directors Aravind Ragupathi and Rob Underhill, joined playwright/actor Mike Wiley, who convincingly plays every character in the film, regardless of race and gender, in an acting tour de force.

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