By Maya King, Howard University News Service
In June 2015, the world bore witness to hate-filled tragedy when Dylann Roof opened fire on an all black Bible study group at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people.
Four years later the story is being brought to big screens in the form of the documentary Emanuel, produced by names like Viola Davis and Stephen Curry. The film’s first screening took place January 23 in Cramton Auditorium at Howard University. Hundreds of Howard University students and staff, as well as community members, attended the sold-out event.
“Films like [Emanuel] hit very close to home every time you watch them, especially having been old enough to remember when the actual shooting happened,” said Denise Morris, a senior biology major who was at the screening. “I enjoyed it and appreciated the perspective of the victims and their families because I didn’t really know too much about their personal stories before.”
Emanuel retells the story of the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church through the eyes of victims and their loved ones. It visits all aspects of the tragedy from Charleston’s history as a slave port to its racist current reality and the choice for some family members to forgive Dylann Roof. The documentary’s emotional content and important messages of identity and redemption are the main reasons why Curry said he wanted to get behind it.
“It’s so hard to try to put yourself in [the families’] shoes and try to empathize with what they’re going through but it’s so inspiring [to see] the way they’ve handled it,” Curry said. “The biggest thing that came out was how faith and forgiveness permeated the families’ response to this tragedy.”
Following the screening, New York Times Editor Lauretta Charlton hosted a panel discussion with Curry as well as Brian Ivie, the documentary’s director and Jeron Smith, CEO of Unanimous Media.
Choosing Howard to be the site of the first screening was a no brainer for Smith, who is also a Howard alum.
“Howard changed my life,” Smith said. “There’s no better place to show this film.”
Emanuel will be released to the general public on June 17, 2019, exactly two years after the shooting to date.