How the filmmakers behind ‘Till’ depicted Black trauma without showing violence
The documentary ‘Till’ focuses on the painful experiences of nine African-American men who are forced to live with their mother after their fathers are incarcerated. While the doc touches on many issues, some of these issues are very personal (like abuse, alcoholism, relationship issues and family dysfunction) and many are not.
However, one of the most personal stories centers around the traumatic experiences of a group of nine men who are forced to live with their mother after their fathers are incarcerated.
Despite this personal subject matter, the film Till takes a very different tone and approach to its subject matter. The first half of the film focuses on the nine-year sentence that the men serve with their mothers as part of their rehabilitation program. It was actually one of the final interviews before they were shipped off to prison for the six-year sentence that they were serving.
The men have been traumatized by the fact that their fathers weren’t there to stop and help them when they were arrested. Instead, when the men were 17 their fathers were in prison, they were told that they had no father figures in their lives. The men were told that they had to be tough and fight for everything and to “get something” from life.
After the men were sentenced to six years in prison, their mothers (who actually love them and have been loving and supportive throughout the ordeal) are allowed to visit them about once a month. They were allowed to go to the prison each time to go visit their sons who had been shipped off and were now incarcerated in a different prison a mere three hours away.
Throughout the movie, the nine men have never uttered one word or offered a word of acknowledgement to their mothers and they often don’t seem to even realize that they’re there. They simply wait for their mother to open the door to get out of the room where they wait there with her and wait for her to walk past them to go into their other prison before they say a word.
The men, who are mostly young African-American males, spend their days in complete silence, doing their work in the kitchen or sitting in front of the television. They don’t bother to say hi to one another or ask to hang out with one another.