Antoine Fuqua recently held a screening for his upcoming Apple TV+ film Emancipation, which stars Will Smith as the real-life slave who famously posed for a photo published in Harper’s Weekly that showcased his horrifically scarred back (a crucial piece of compelling evidence for campaigns against slavery at the time), and everyone seems to have nothing but positive things to say about it. Entertainment Weekly quotes Derrick Johnson, head of the NAACP, as saying that he “can’t begin to tell how powerful this is for OUR community and OUR history.” Smith also noted that he has turned down movies about slavery in the past, but that “this is not a film about slavery.” Instead, he says, “This is a film about freedom. This is a film about resilience. This is a film about faith.”
Deadline shared a trailer for the film and chatted with Fuqua about it, and while he stops short of saying that he thinks Emancipation is his best movie, he does admit that he said when he had finished that it’s his “strongest piece of work” and “certainly” his “most important” film. Apple seems to agree with that last bit, with Fuqua telling Deadline that the company “never stopped talking about releasing the film” even after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars and even after the whole production moved from Georgia to Louisiana.
It’s not hard to see why Apple didn’t want to let distractions sideline this project after watching the trailer, which is pretty heavy and leans really hard on what seems like a very intense performance from Will Smith—who, let’s not forget, also won the Best Actor Oscar earlier this year in addition to that other thing.
Emancipation opens in theaters on December 2 and will premiere on AppleTV+ on December 9.