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Will Smith’s new movie first reactions: What are people saying about ‘Emancipation’?

Will Smith’s new film Emancipation will be released on Apple TV in December. What are critics saying in anticipation of its release?

Will Smith’s new film Emancipation will be released on Apple TV in December. What are critics saying in anticipation of its release?
Dan MullanGetty Images

Emancipation, a new movie produced by Apple TV, starring Will Smith follows the story of Peter, a slave who escapes slavery and, when moving north, joins the Union Army during the American Civil War.

The movie will be available for Apple TV users on 9 December but will hit theaters a week earlier on 2 December. However, residents of Washington, DC, are able to see the film in theaters now.

The script had many production companies interested, with Warner Bros, MGM, Lionsgate, and Universal Pictures all bidding, only to see Apple win the distribution rights, paying over $130 million. Will Smith is the highest paid member of the cast, making around $30 million for his role. Other major stars in the film include Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa, Gilbert Owuor, and Mustafa Shakir.

For history buffs, the film may be of interest as it follows the real events of a slave in Louisiana named Gordon. Images of the brutality and torture by a white slave owner who whipped his back were shared around the world by abolitionists during the civil war. The pictures of Gordon’s back gave many white northerners a small glimpse into the horrors of slavery in the south and the treatment of Black people. Emancipation aims to highlight the role Gordon’s story plays in the abolition of slavery in the US - a story that has not been told to a wide audience.

What are critics saying?

The movie was released in theaters in Washington DC on 1 October, giving critics and some members of the public a chance to see the film early. With the film only being out a few days, reviews have yet to come in.

The President and CEO of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, saw the film and left a positive review on Twitter saying “I had the pleasure of watching the film #Emancipation and can’t begin to tell how powerful this is for OUR community and OUR history. It’s a story of adversity, of resilience, of love, and of triumph.”

The film is being released early enough to qualify for the 2023 Academy Awards, which could raise some questions over Will Smith’s presence at the events. After “the slap,” Smith has been banned from the event for ten years after slapping Chirs Rock at this year’s event.

Most expect the movie to receive a few nominations, and it also happens to be one of the only films that did not drop Smith after the event.


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