When film aficionados around the state tune in to the Oscars this Sunday, there are a couple North Carolina connections to look out for. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was filmed in and around Asheville and is up for several awards. Another connection is in the short film category — a North Carolinian directed one of the films nominated for best short.
His name is Kevin Wilson Jr., and he is a native of Durham who attended Hillside High School. Wilson directed the 2017-film “My Nephew Emmett,” which tells the story of the lynching of Emmett Till through the eyes of his uncle, Moses Wright.
Host Frank Stasio talks to Wilson about the making of the film and what it feels like to be nominated for an Academy Award. Wilson also discusses the impact North Carolina has on his work and he plans to work on next.
Wilson on why he made this movie from the perspective of Till’s uncle:
When I started at NYU, I had just become a father … I was really curious about the decision to have to decide between having your son or your nephew taken out of your home or having your entire family killed. I thought that was just an impossible decision to make and one that came with a lot of heartache. So I thought that that perspective and that point of the story went largely ignored.
On filming right next to the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi, where Emmett’s body was found:
I took my actors down to that river right before we were going to film the abduction scene in the middle of the night. We all went down there and held hands and prayed. We talked about what we were doing, and we really felt the spirit of Emmett Till, and we felt Mose's and Elizabeth's spirit, and everyone who was involved in that night. That's something that I wouldn't have been able to get anywhere else.
On why Emmett Till’s story is still relevant today:
For me, Emmett's story isn't far removed from what we're encountering today. At the core of it all, it's about the value of a human life, specifically the value of a black life. And I think there's an issue when a life is lost and somebody's responsible for that life being taken from this earth and that person isn't held accountable for that. When there's a debate about whether a person should or shouldn't be held accountable for it. When there are justifications of a murder, I think there's a conversation that still has to be had.