Will Smith returns to the big screen in Emancipation.
On Wednesday, Apple Original Films released the official trailer for Emancipation, 54-year-old Smith’s first film since his incident at the 94th Academy Awards in March, in which he slapped Chris Rock during the nationally televised live broadcast of the awards ceremony gave.
In Emancipation, Smith stars as Peter, a man whose escape from slavery forces him to “rely on his wits, his unwavering faith, and his deep love for his family” while fighting slave hunters and traveling through Louisiana on his Journey to freedom flees.
The upcoming film is inspired by “the 1863 photographs of ‘Whipped Peter’ taken during a Union Army medical examination and first appearing in Harper’s Weekly,” reads the synopsis.
One image from the series of photos, titled “The Scourged Back,” shows the man’s wounded back after being severely flogged by his slaves — a photo that “ultimately contributed to growing public opposition to slavery,” according to the synopsis.
The nearly three-minute long new trailer for the film, directed by Antoine Fuqua, sees Peter being separated from his family by slave traders before deciding to flee to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and attempt to ally himself with the Union Army to meet the American Civil War.
Though Peter’s journey is perilous – the trailer teases a fight with an alligator in the Louisiana swamps while a group of slavers led by Ben Foster’s character search for him – he seems to make it far enough to join the Union Army and to fight in at least one battle during the war.
That emancipation The trailer ends with a full-circle moment as Peter poses for the now-famous “Scourged Back” photo, highlighting the film’s real-life inspiration.
On Tuesday, Fuqua, 56, said he hopes audiences can look past Smith’s Oscar outburst and appreciate it emancipation.
Trailer for Will Smith’s Emancipation
He said vanity fair that although there was never a conversation “about the film Not Coming Out”, the studio and filmmakers had to assess the situation and finally decided that there was no need to postpone it any further.
“Of course I wanted people to see the film,” said the director. “My conversation was always: ‘Isn’t 400 years of slavery, brutality, more important than a bad moment?’ We’ve been to Hollywood and some really ugly things have happened and we’ve seen a lot of people get awards for doing some really ugly things.
The film’s December 2 release date qualifies it for the upcoming awards season, and while Smith is banned from attending Academy events for the next 10 years, he’s still eligible to be nominated and win at the Academy Awards.
Aside from Smith and Foster, emancipation also stars Charmaine Bingwa, Gilbert Owuor, Mustafa Shakir, Steven Ogg, Grant Harvey, Ronnie Gene Bivens, Jayson Warner Smith, Jabbar Lewis, Michael Luwoye, Aaron Moten and Imani Pullum.
emancipation Launches in theaters December 2nd and begins streaming worldwide on December 9th on Apple TV+.