By Brent Furdyk.

The first screening of upcoming Apple TV+ drama “Emancipation” took place Saturday in Washington, D.C., with director Antoine Fuqua and star Will Smith both in attendance.

“Emancipation” will be the first Smith-starring movie to be released since he infamously slapped Chris Rock onstage at the Oscars, minutes before winning his first Academy Award.

“Emancipation” is based on the true story of a slave named Peter (Smith), who escapes his plantation in order to find his family, eventually joining the Union Army. When his whip-scarred back was photographed during a medical examination, the photo was printed in The Independent, opening eyes to the brutality of slavery in America.


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According to The Hollywood Reporter, the backlash to Smith’s actions had left the film’s fate in limbo, but it now appears the furor has died down enough to a screening to occur, indicating its release won’t be too far off.

Following the screening, which took place at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smith and Fuqua discussed the movie during a conversation with moderator Angela Rye.

“Throughout my career, I’ve turned down many films that were set in slavery. 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 said at the screening.“


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“This is a film about the heart of a man — what could be called the first viral image,” Smith continued. “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.”





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Ellen Bullock