Videos give serious edge to Black History Month





Black History Month no longer is just about Martin Luther King Jr. biographies and classic black movies.

Indie distributor ThinkFilm is giving the traditional Black History Month home video promotion a serious bent in February with "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till," the acclaimed documentary that details the true story of one of the country's most notorious civil rights killings.

The DVD is scheduled to arrive in stores February 28, at a time when possible indictments in the case could come down. Director Keith Beauchamp spent 10 years trying to sort out the facts behind Till's brutal August 1955 slaying. The 14-year-old Chicago boy was visiting relatives in the Mississippi Delta when he was abducted, beaten and killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Suspects in the case were arrested but later acquitted of murder by an all-white, all-male jury.

Beauchamp found and interviewed eyewitnesses to the killing and also discovered additional parties who might have been involved. As a result of his findings, the U.S. Department of Justice reopened the case in summer 2004.

"Through sheer determination and against the odds, Keith has uncovered the truth behind a seminal event in civil rights and modern American history," ThinkFilm president and CEO Jeff Sackman said.

The DVD includes a variety of extras, including a commentary with Beauchamp, an update on the case and an educational guide, complete with lesson plans developed with the Harvard Civil Rights Project that can be used in schools, universities and libraries.

Not to be outdone, Docurama on January 10 will release on DVD "A Time for Burning," a black-and-white 1966 cinema verite film that earned filmmaker Bill Jersey an Oscar nomination for best documentary. This week, it was one of 25 films selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

Jersey's subject: Pastor Bill Youngdahl from Omaha, Neb., who at the onset of the civil rights movement attempted to spur his all-white Lutheran congregation into action. The DVD includes a director's commentary, an interview with black nationalist Ernie Chambers (who in the film tells Youngdahl his "Jesus is contaminated") and a filmmaker biography.



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