The first screening of the upcoming Will Smith historical drama Emancipation took place over the weekend at an event co-hosted by Apple and the NAACP–and those in attendance had rave reviews.
NAACP president Derrick Johnson called it “powerful” and a “story of adversity, of resilience, of love, and of triumph”, while ABC News contributor Donna Brazile referred to it as a “powerful picture.” Also in attendance was director Antoine Fuqua. The screening marked the first time Will Smith saw Emancipation with an audience.
Emancipation tells the story of a runaway slave named Peter (Will Smith) who enlists in the Union Army. The character is directly based on Gordon, who appeared in harrowing photos showing the brutalities at the hand and whip of slave owners. The photos, published in 1863, are cited as a key moment in the abolitionist movement.
Emancipation was originally intended for a 2022 release, giving Will Smith potential back-to-back Oscar nominations (and wins?), but was delayed to 2023 for numerous reasons. These include production moving out of Georgia over new voter laws and multiple Covid-19 cases. Oh, and that Will Smith decided to slap Chris Rock at the Academy Awards for making a mid-tier joke about Smith’s D-list wife.
The movie was indeed generating Oscar buzz, but Will Smith’s chances at another nod seem highly unlikely, based on the actor doing just about all he could to ruin his reputation. He is also banned from any Academy function for a decade.
Emancipation was the focus of a major bidding war at the Virtual Cannes Film Festival in 2020, with Apple making a deal estimated to be worth $120 million.
No official release date has been set for Emancipation, but it will premiere on Apple TV+ in 2023.
Are you looking forward to Emancipation? Do you think Will Smith has blown his chance at another Oscar nomination?