Will Smith and the director of “Emancipation” defend the slave film

One of the biggest wild cards of this year’s award season is… ReleaseBiographical slavery epic starring Will Smith. It’s also the competitor with the most baggage, thanks to its stardom and controversial subject matter.

The AppleTV+ movie, which is in select theaters now and airs December 9, comes just nine months after the Academy Awards ceremony where Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock on stage, after the comedian mocked his wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith. . The timing of the film’s release, relative to an Oscar slam, raised some eyebrows. Plus, people on social media have it she expressed fatigue about the film, given the prevalence of slave narratives in Hollywood and the question of whether such depictions were exploitative.

At a press conference for Release On Saturday, the film’s director, Antoine Fuqua, explained why he felt the need to capture this frightening period on film.

“Today, we seem to be forgetting our past, which is dangerous,” said the director, sitting next to Smith. “They kind of put us to sleep with lots of money and diamonds. Some people were born when Barack Obama was president.

Smith agreed, saying, “Correct.”

He continued, “… as if nothing existed before Barack Obama, which is what they want you to believe.” “So I felt like the time had come. And as I watched George Floyd die in the street, I was more energized. It’s important to tell those stories now.”

Release It is based on the true story of an enslaved man named Gordon (also known as “Peter the Skin”), who escaped from his plantation in Louisiana in the 1860s. Gordon’s story became a lightning rod in the abolitionist movement after photos circulated of his back after being flogged several times. Fuqua said he was particularly excited about Smith’s portrayal of Gordon (who is called Peter in the film).

“I got emotional just seeing Will do this,” training day The manager explained. Part of that, in 1863, was the concept of someone like Will, who was so well-liked, would be a slave. And we did some testing and saw some early photos with Will and his team. And I saw the picture as Peter developed us. It broke my heart.”

Smith briefly discussed the mental and physical toll of embodying Gordon and depicting “this level of human atrocity”. But the rest of the press conference, which was held for members of the Critics’ Choice Society, did not touch on the blatant debate about the actor’s role in the film and a potential Oscar campaign, despite a decade-long ban from attending the ceremony.

Maybe Smith got that part out Release Press tour out of the way when he went The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Last week, for his first TV appearance since the Oscars incident. He made it clear to Noah formally that he was “going through something that night,” though he “doesn’t rationalize it [his] behavior.” He claimed that his actions toward Rock “were not of the [he] He wants to be.”

The King Richard The actor recently appeared on Showtime All smoke Hosted by Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, he tearfully discussed the need to explain the incident to his nephew before moving on to a host of other topics.

Even though Smith has released several charges against him, the jury is still out on whether moviegoing voters and audiences are ready to forgive the beloved actor for his recent crimes or if telling this kind of politically urgent story will exonerate him.

Until now, Release It received mixed to negative reviews, with critics mainly highlighting Ben Foster’s supporting performance as the central slave master. Whether that love extends to Smith or the movie itself during next year’s awards season is anyone’s guess.


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