How the filmmakers behind ‘Till’ depicted Black trauma without showing violence
As you read the captions to this film, think about how much time has passed since Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. It’s been over a year. In the interim, we’ve seen a deluge of new, deeply disturbing, headlines about police brutality, mass shootings and racial tension. All of which have been used by the film’s white filmmakers to paint “Black Lives Matter” as a movement that instigates violence.
As the filmmakers behind this film know, Black Lives Matter is not about violence, they say, nor does it instigate violence. The movement, they argue, is about the experience of racial inequality.
But in reality, Black Lives Matter does bring with it the trauma of the past to this day. “When these images of unarmed Black men and women dead or dying are shown, they’re not images of rage, they’re not images of anger, but they represent a trauma and a history that’s long been ignored, or denied, or dismissed,” says Marlon Riggs, the director of the documentary film “Till.” “And that goes all the way back to our history to this day.”
With a title that’s as familiar as it is apt, Riggs and his fellow filmmakers have tried to capture those same experiences in a film with a similar title: “Till We Get It Right.”
“We wanted to capture the tragedy and pain of our history that we haven’t seen on screen, or in film, or on television, in a way that shows some of the complexity and the humanity,” says Riggs. “This film is a way to look at what we’ve failed to see, what we’ve refused to see, and we’re finally trying to make it real.”
Hollywood filmmakers have long tried to tackle racial issues through more violent or dramatic movies, but rarely have they been so transparent and honest about their goals.
The film is just one of three new documentaries premiering at SXSW, the annual festival of film and ideas in Austin. It is the only one that is actually being released in theaters, as a limited engagement, as opposed to a theatrical release, and it’s made by the filmmakers themselves, not a distributor that makes a profit from their film.
Its title, “Till We Get It Right” was inspired by a phrase the film’s writers came up with: