Will Smith Is Escaping Slavery In The Emancipation Teaser Trailer

Emancipation main

by James White |
Published on

Back when they first snapped it up after a bidding war, Apple must've thought that Emancipation, starring Will Smith and directed by Antoine Fuqua was just the sort of awards-bait to follow its victory with CODA. But then along came "the slap" on Oscars night, which seems likely to dominate the conversation around the movie. Still, Apple is pushing ahead with the release, and has put the first teaser trailer online.

Written by William N. Collage, Emancipation tells the triumphant story of Peter (Smith), a man who escapes from slavery, relying on his wits, unwavering faith and deep love for his family to evade cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on his quest for freedom.

The film is inspired by the 1863 photos of “Whipped Peter,” taken during a Union Army medical examination, that first appeared in Harper’s Weekly. One image, known as “The Scourged Back,” which shows Peter’s bare back mutilated by a whipping delivered by his enslavers, ultimately contributed to growing public opposition to slavery.

Apple kicked off the campaign for this one with a screening during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 51st Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC. "When I first read the script, I was inspired. For me as a director, doing a film about slavery is daunting," Fuqua tells Deadline. "Because you want to get it right and I’d want to make it as truthful and as authentic as I can. What I found is, it was very inspiring to people. Peter’s image from 1863 inspired me to want to make the film and inspired Will to want to make the film. It seemed to inspire the audience similarly; they clapped and cheered afterward. That was the thing I felt most moved by. For more from the director, head to Deadline's site.

Emancipation will be in US cinemas from 2 December, but there's no official word whether that will also happen in the UK. It'll debut on Apple TV+ on 9 December.

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