First Viewing of Will Smith’s Apple Thriller “Emancipation”

Apple staged its debut exhibition. Will Smith plays an enslaved man who, after recuperating from a beating that nearly killed him, braved the marshes of Louisiana armed only with his wits to escape ruthless slave hunters and become free in the Antoine Fuqua-directed thriller Saturday of Emancipation.

In a follow-up conversation that took place this afternoon after a private screening that was held as part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 51st annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, Smith, and Fuqua both made their first public remarks on the movie. Apple hasn’t announced a release date, but this is the clearest sign that the movie will hit theatres in time for awards season, which will be considerably more difficult following Smith’s slap at Chris Rock at the previous Oscars.

Since Apple obtained the rights to create the movie in a world-record-breaking auction, it has maintained a high profile. Emancipation, a play written by William N. Collage, was influenced by photos of Peter taken in 1863 when the former slave enlisted in the Union Army to track down his family. The images, which were viewed all across the world, fueled opposition to slavery as a barbarous practice. The pictures served as a metaphorical precursor to the pictures of Emmett Till’s damaged body, the video of Rodney King, and eventually the George Floyd film. Emancipation had been seen as a top awards season candidate before the Oscar reprimand that earned Smith a 10-year expulsion from the Academy.

Congressional Black Caucus, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Divine 9 (Historically Black Fraternities and Sororities), National Council of Negro Women, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Power Rising, #WinWithBlackWomen, and other social impact leaders were among the organizations represented at the screening, which was organized by Apple Original Films and the NAACP.

The post-screening discussion with Fuqua, Smith, and Mary Elliott, curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, was not open to us. It was the first time the director and actor discussed the movie in public and was moderated by political and cultural journalist Angela Rye.

The predictable stream of tweets focusing on a conversation on a crucial historical topic has begun. Will the general public and award voters look past the diversion to an essential movie’s content? We will find out asap.

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