Apple hosted the first screening of Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua’s upcoming film Emancipation in Washington DC on Saturday. Though the fate of the project seemed to be in jeopardy following Smith’s now-infamous Oscar smack, the showing suggests Apple is planning a release soon.
At the 2022 Oscars, Smith took the stage during the ceremony and surprised the world by smacking host Chris Rock, who made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Smith has since resigned from the academy, some of his projects have been put on hold and he has apologized to Rock, Rock’s family, his fellow Oscar winners and others.
Apple and the NAACP hosted the Emancipation Demonstration during the 51st Annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Legislative Conference for representatives of the Congressional Black Caucus, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Divine 9 (Historically Black Fraternities and Sororities), the National Council of Negro Women and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Power Rising and #WinWithBlackWomen, among other social impact leaders.
This was followed by a talk 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 political and cultural commentator Angela Rye.
“Throughout my career, I’ve turned down a lot of films that were set in slavery,” Smith said at the screening. “I never wanted to show it to us like that. And then this picture came up. 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 a man’s heart – what could be called the first viral image. Cameras had just come out, and the picture of Peter being whipped went around the world. It was a call against slavery and this was a story that exploded and blossomed in my heart that I wanted to convey to you in a way only Antoine Fuqua could.”
Based on a true story, Emancipation follows Peter (Smith) as he runs away from his plantation in search of his family, outwitting cold-blooded hunters and surviving the swamps of Louisiana. Peter eventually joins the Union Army. During a medical examination, his bare back was photographed, scarred from a near-fatal flogging by the overseer of his former plantation. The Independent published the photo, which undoubtedly proves the cruelty and barbarism of slavery in America.
Fuqua directed and produced Emancipation from a screenplay by William N. Collage. The film is produced by Smith and Jon Mone through Westbrook Studios, Joey McFarland through McFarland Entertainment and Todd Black through Escape Artists. Chris Brigham, James Lassiter, Heather Washington, Cliff Roberts, Glen Basner and Scott Greenberg are executive producers.