bitchy | Will Smith’s ‘Emancipation’ has a trailer, will come out in December


A few weeks ago, there were rumors about Antoine Fuqua’s Emancipation, which stars Will Smith. Industry sources were all in their feelings about whether AppleTV should push back Emancipation’s release date for another year because of all of the drama with Will Smith and the “Oscars slap.” By the end of that trade-paper story, I was halfway hoping that AppleTV would postpone the release date for another year, just so the “the slap” wouldn’t be so fresh in people’s minds and perhaps the film could be evaluated on its own terms. It looks like AppleTV just wants to get Emancipation off its plate though – it’s now clear that the film will be released as schedule in December, and Smith and Fuqua have already started doing high-profile screenings. The first trailer was cut too:

This looks so devastating. It’s (loosely) based on the true story of “Whipped Peter,” the slave-turned-Union soldier who was photographed when he reached a Union outpost. The photo of the whip scars on his back became one of the most searing images of Civil War America. Will Smith plays “Whipped Peter.” Smith seems to be turning in another Oscar-bait performance, but please remember that Smith is currently at the start of his ten-year ban from the Oscars. Curiously, the ban is just about Will’s attendance – it’s perfectly possible that he could be nominated and simply not allowed to attend the ceremony. That isn’t stopping Will though – the first screening of the film was hosted in Washington DC for a who’s who of Black academia and Black activists.

Apple held the first screening for Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua’s upcoming film, Emancipation, on Saturday in Washington D.C. Though the fate of the project seemingly hung in the balance following Smith’s now-infamous Oscars slap, the screening indicates Apple is looking to release it soon.

Apple and NAACP hosted the Emancipation screening during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 51st Annual Legislative Conference for representatives from the Congressional Black Caucus, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Divine 9 (Historically Black Fraternities and Sororities), National Council of Negro Women, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Power Rising and #WinWithBlackWomen, among other social impact leaders.

It was followed by a conversation about the film with Fuqua, Will Smith and Mary Elliott, curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, moderated by politics and culture commentator Angela Rye.

“Throughout my career, I’ve turned down many films that were set in slavery,” Smith said at the screening. “I never wanted to show us like that. And then this picture came along. And this is not a film about slavery. This is a film about freedom. This is a film about resilience. This is a film about faith.” He continued, “This is a film about the heart of a man — what could be called the first viral image. Cameras had just been created, and the image of whipped Peter went around the world. It was a rallying cry against slavery, and this was a story that exploded and blossomed in my heart that I wanted to be able to deliver to you in a way that only Antoine Fuqua could deliver.”

Based on a true story, Emancipation follows Peter (Smith), who runs away from his plantation in search of his family, outwitting cold-blooded hunters and surviving the Louisiana swamps along the way. Peter eventually joins the Union Army. During a medical examination, his bare back, which had scars on it from a near-fatal whipping at the hands of his former plantation’s overseer, was photographed. The Independent published the photo, undoubtedly proving the cruelty and barbarity of slavery in America.

[From THR]

I appreciate that Will has never done a “slavery movie” before now. It’s not that he’s judging actors who do – I mean, Denzel has done a slavery movie (Glory). Chiwetel Ejiofor has done a slavery movie (12 Years a Slave). Even Jamie Foxx has done one, sort of, with Quentin Tarantino. Will’s consideration was that he wasn’t just doing a “slavery was bad” movie, he wanted to show a more inspirational and factual story. That being said, 12 Years a Slave was factual too, based on Solomon Northup’s memoir. Anyway, I’ll watch Emancipation but I predict that the material is going to be so, so heavy.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, YouTube.





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