1664774292 Will Smiths first major post Oscar film Emancipation gets praise at

Will Smith’s first major post-Oscar film, Emancipation, gets praise at special screening

Ever since Will Smith won an Oscar — and slapped Chris Rock — his career has been in freefall. Now the former Fresh Prince wants to prove that his crown still has some shine.

Apple showed director Antoine Fuqua’s new film Emancipation (Training Day), starring Smith as Peter, an enslaved man who runs away from Louisiana in search of his family and eventually joins the Union Army.

The fate of the film, as well as a number of Smith’s projects, hung in the air after the slap-not-seen-but-talked-about-in-the-world. But Apple, which produced Emancipation, hosted a screening with the NAACP to an audience of social impact leaders during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 51st Annual Legislative Conference, signaling its intent to release the film soon. And with the Oscars just around the corner.

Will Smith

Will Smith

Neilson Barnard/Getty Will Smith win best actor for King Richard at Oscars 2022

Following the screening, Smith, who has kept a low profile since the last Academy Awards, took part in a conversation with Fuqua and Mary Elliott, Curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, moderated by Politics and cultural commentator Angela Rye.

“Throughout my career, I’ve turned down a lot of films that were set in slavery,” Smith said at the screening. “I never wanted to show it like that. And then this picture came up. 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.”

In 1863, New York’s Harper’s Weekly, the most widely read magazine during the Civil War, published an infamous picture of the real Peter (or Gordon, or “Whipped Peter”) with horrific scars on his back that Smith supplied provided Norse with visual evidence of the brutality of slavery and inspired free blacks to join the Union Army.

“This is a film about a man’s heart — what could be considered the first viral image,” Smith said. “Cameras had just been created and the picture of Whipped Peter went around the world. It was a call against slavery and this was a story that exploded and blossomed in my heart that I wanted to deliver to you in a way that only Antoine Fuqua could deliver.”

The story goes on

The film and Smith were greeted with a warm welcome, with NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson calling it, “a tale of adversity, resilience, love and triumph.”

However, should Smith and Emancipation cause Oscar hype, Smith will be unable to attend the ceremony or any other ceremony for another 10 years.

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