Director Antoine Fuqua hopes Will Smith’s Oscars slap will not overshadow new film ‘Emancipation’

Director Antoine Fuqua has shared his hope that audiences can move on from Will Smith’s Oscars slap.

Fuqua, whose previous films include Training Day and The Equalizer, is set to release his latest movie Emancipation next month.

Set in Louisiana in the late 19th century, the film features Smith as a man named Peter who goes on a gruelling journey to freedom after escaping his enslavement.

In March, Smith made headlines for smacking Chris Rock across the face at the Academy Awards, after Rock made an ill-judged joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

The weeks and months since have seen fans and public figures alike feverishly discussing the event, with some questioning Smith’s place in Hollywood as a result of his actions.

Smith has apologised at least twice, with the most recent appeal to Rock taking place in July in the form of a five-minute video.

During an interview with Vanity Fair released on Tuesday (15 November), Fuqua made reference to the viral moment, expressing his desire for those watching the film to set any opinions about Smith aside and focus on the important story being told.

“The film to me is bigger than that moment. Four hundred years of slavery is bigger than one moment,” Fuqua explained.

“My hope is that people will see it that way and watch the movie and be swept away with the great performance by Will and all the real hard work that the whole crew did.”

Emancipation (Apple TV+)
Emancipation (Apple TV+)

The film is inspired by the memorable photo of an enslaved man commonly called “Whipped Peter”, which shows his back marked with keloid scars having suffered brutal whipping from enslavers.

The striking image contributed to growing public opposition to slavery.

Emancipation will be available for streaming on Apple TV+ on Friday 9 December.