Will Smith makes appearance at screening for his first major film since Oscar slap

American actor Will Smith at the 94th Oscars in Hollywood in March. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - American actor Will Smith’s upcoming film, Emancipation, was screened last Saturday ahead of its release.

The Apple Original Films thriller is his first major movie following his infamous Oscar slap in March and there had initially been talk that it would be delayed due to the Hollywood A-lister’s fall from grace.

At the 2022 Oscars, Smith went on stage and slapped presenter Chris Rock, who had made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Will Smith, 54, was subsequently banned from attending the Oscars for 10 years.

Following the screener at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 51st Annual Legislative Conference, it appeared that the highly anticipated movie will be released soon.

Emancipation is based on the true story of an enslaved man named Peter, who was given a whipping that nearly killed him. He escaped through the swamps of Louisiana armed with only his wits. A photo taken in 1863 of Peter’s horrifically scarred back was seen around the world and galvanised opposition to slavery.

Following the screening of the movie, its director Antoine Fuqua, Will Smith and Mary Elliott, curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, had a conversation moderated by politics and culture commentator Angela Rye.

“Throughout my career, I’ve turned down many films that were set in slavery,” Smith said in a report on the event by entertainment portal The Hollywood Reporter. “I never wanted to show us like that. And then this picture came along. 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.”

Smith, who has kept a low profile since the Oscars, added: “This is a film about the heart of a man – what could be called the first viral image. Cameras had just been created and the image of whipped Peter went around the world.

“It was a rallying cry against slavery, and this was a story that exploded and blossomed in my heart that I wanted to be able to deliver to you in a way that only Antoine Fuqua could deliver.”

On Twitter, members of the community who were invited to the private screener responded positively to the movie, which had been considered a prime contender for the awards season until Smith’s ban by the Oscars.

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