Will Smith‘s first post-Slap movie, Emancipation (in which the King Richard actor plays a slave attempting to reunite with his family in the north), premiered this weekend as part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Legislative Conference. It received mostly positive reviews, with NAACP president Derrick Johnson tweeting, “I had the pleasure of watching the film #Emancipation and can’t begin to tell how powerful this is for OUR community and OUR history. It’s a story of adversity, of resilience, of love, and of triumph. Thank you Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith for sharing your gifts!”
That’s the kind of positive publicity for Emancipation that Apple TV+ needs, considering the streaming service reportedly has no idea what the heck to do with the movie. It looks like an “Oscar movie,” in the sense that it’s a historical drama about a heavy subject from a notable director and starring an acclaimed actor, but any discourse about the film itself will be overshadowed by the time Will Smith slapped Chris Rock (then won an Oscar).
Try to forget about G.I. Jane while watching the trailer above, though. Here’s more:
Scripted by William N. Collage, Emancipation was inspired by 1863 photographs taken of Peter, when the formerly enslaved man joined the Union Army in hopes of finding his family. The photographs were seen around the world and galvanized opposition to slavery as barbaric. The images were a symbolic forerunner to the photos of the battered body of Emmett Till, video of Rodney King and later the George Floyd video. Until the Oscar slap that drew Smith a 10-year ban from the Academy, Emancipation had been considered a prime awards season contender.
Emancipation premieres in theaters on December 2 and hits Apple TV+ on December 9.