Will Smith may be banned from attending all Academy Award functions for the next decade after a certain incident involving Chris Rock, but he’ll still be exerting his presence at the upcoming ceremony with Antoine Fuqua’s historical drama Emancipation.
Based on a true story, this Oscar contender follows Peter (Will Smith), who escapes his plantation in search of his family after being whipped inches from death. Outwitting cold-blooded hunters and surviving the Louisiana swamps along the way, Peter eventually joins the Abraham Lincoln’s Union Army.
During a medical examination, his bare back is photographed, heavily scourged from an overseer’s whippings. These horrific images are published worldwide circa 1863, providing the abolitionist movement proof of American slavery’s cruelty.
“Throughout my career, I’ve turned down many films that were set in slavery,” Will Smith said at the first screening of Emancipation this past weekend (via The Hollywood Reporter).
“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.”
Smith added: “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.”
Will Smith is joined by Ben Foster as Fassel, Steven Ogg as Sergeant Howard, Charmaine Bingwa as Dodienne, Gilbert Owuour as Gordon, Mustafa Shakier as Andre Cailloux, Grant Harvey as Leeds, Ronnie Gene Blevins as Harrington, Jayson Warner Smith as Captain John Lyons, Jabbar Lewis as Tomas, Michael Luwoye as John, Aaron Moten as Knowls, and Imani Pullum as Betsy.
With Antoine Fuqua in the director’s chair, Emancipation has been written by William N. Collage (Exodus: Gods & Kings, Assassin’s Creed); produced by Smith himself 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, as well as Scott Greenberg signed on to executive produce.
Emancipation hits theatres on December 2nd of 2022 before arriving to Apple TV+ a week later on December 9th of 2022 – check out the trailer above.