A new trailer for Will Smith’s Emancipation is here. The Apple+ film, expected to be the comeback for Smith after his Oscars slap heard around the world, released new footage ahead of its Dec. 2 release in theaters and Dec. 9 release on Apple+.
The movie is based on a slave known to history as Peter. He was photographed in 1863 with a patchwork of keloided scars from a whip across his back. Peter survived a ten-day escape from a plantation in Louisiana and joined the Union Army to fight against slavery in the Civil War. Peter’s picture was taken by military doctors and published in the July 4, 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly captioned as “Whipped Peter.“
An observer recorded the scene for posterity with these words as reported by the New York Tribune in 1863.
“Suiting the action to the word, [Peter] pulled down the pile of dirty rags that half concealed his back. It sent a thrill of horror to every white person present, but the few Blacks who were waiting…paid but little attention to the sad spectacle, such terrible scenes being painfully familiar to them all.”
The horrific image helped further make the case against slavery in the U.S.
In the trailer, Peter, played by Smith, is shown making his way through the harsh Louisiana swamp, and then in uniform in the Union Army. His wife and children remain in slavery but his wife believes that Peter will make it back to retrieve them. At the end of the trailer, the footage pans to the first sighting of Peter’s scars.
Director Antoine Fuqua thanked Apple+ for being willing to continue with the film’s release despite the controversy around ‘The Slap.’ But no matter how compelling Smith’s performance may be, that one bad moment means he won’t see another Oscar nomination as he’s been banned from NARAS and the Oscar ceremony for the next ten years.
Fuqua provided some as-yet unheard context to Smith’s possible state of mind at the Oscars.
“It’s really hard to release a character who’s been brutalized and called the N-word every day — constantly, every day — and still be the nicest person in the world. That, I know,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “So no excuses for anyone or anything, but I can say that he’s a good man, and I hope that people can forgive him and that we can move forward. I hope Chris and Will find a way to sit together publicly, privately, whatever, and make amends. I think it would be an incredible statement.”
Watch the latest trailer below: