Zollo tells Till tale with docu director

Civil rights drama comes to the big screen

Producers Fred Zollo and Thomas Levine will team with documentary filmmaker Keith Beauchamp to mount a dramatic feature about Emmett Till, the 14-year-old whose 1955 murder for whistling at a white woman became a galvanizing force in civil rights reform.

Beauchamp directed “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” the ThinkFilm-distributed docu that prompted the Justice Dept. to reopen Till’s murder case. Doc exec producer Steven Laitmon will co-produce the feature.

For Zollo, project would mean a trifecta of civil rights dramas that focus on race crimes in Mississippi. He produced “Mississippi Burning” (1988), about the murder of three civil rights workers in 1964, and “Ghosts of Mississippi” (1996), a drama about the murder of activist Medgar Evers.

He’ll set a writer shortly and then secure a director.

“I’d always seen Emmett Till as the third film, but never found a way in until I met Keith,” Zollo said. “Now we can see the tragedy through the contemporary eyes of Keith. His investigation filled in many of the missing pieces.”

The likely plan is to focus on the journey of Beauchamp, who had never made a movie but was coaxed into spending nine years on the project by the murdered youth’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley.

Till Mobley, who died in 2003, is a central figure in two bigscreen projects about the murder of her son.

“Soul Food” producers Robert Teitel and George Tillman Jr. continue to work on a film based on a memoir she wrote with Christopher Benson. Benson has written a script with David Barr and Raymond Thomas. James Moll, who filmed Till Mobley for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation archives, will make his feature debut.

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