Will Smith is banned from the Oscars but is back with New Movie
Will Smith presents us with the ultimate Hollywood paradox.
The multi-hyphenated talent suddenly appears both at the height of his acting powers and at the height of showbiz infamy.
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Smith, 54, was immediately thrown into industry purgatory for his actions, with many projects sunk or delayed. But now one of them is set to be released, opening up the possibility that the actor could be nominated for another Oscar despite being banned from the Academy Awards until 2032.
What is ‘Emancipation’ about?
The film takes place a few months after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, freeing black slaves and inviting them to join the Union Army to help turn the tide during the Civil War.
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Enlistment required escape from Southern plantations, and “Emancipation” tells the story of one such slave, known as Peter (Smith), who must fight his way through the Louisiana swamps, haunted by creatures and former slave owners with dogs, to reach Union lines.
Is this movie based on a true story?
Countless slaves have attempted such a perilous escape, and “Emancipation” follows the plight of two, Peter and Gordon. The film appears to be largely based on the story of a real-life runaway slave named Gordon, who was famously photographed in 1863 with his back to the camera to show off the gruesome scars he developed as a result of being whipped.
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Historians say the photo helped turn public opinion against slavery by providing undeniable proof of its cruelty. Peter takes something from the real Gordon saga and the trailer shows a quick shot with Peter’s back to the photographer.
Who directed “Emancipation”?
The film was directed by Antoine Fuqua, who chose to tell the story in a fascinating hybrid of color and black and white. The trailer for “Emancipation” suggests that the film is unsparing in its depiction of the harsh reality faced by runaway slaves, as well as in its presentation of gruesome Civil War battle scenes.
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Fuqua is best known as the director of “Training Day” (2001), for which Denzel Washington won an Oscar for his role as a corrupt cop. Fuqua also directed the “Equalizer” series of feature films and in 2019 directed and produced the documentary “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali”.
It’s not the usual Will Smith role
For years, Smith’s stock was instantly likable, anchored by an infectious smile. Whether he was rapping (as part of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince), frolicking in a sitcom, or starring as a dating guru, Smith rarely wavered from the persona that made him one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
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Against this background, “Emancipation” is a huge leap for Smith, far beyond his more serious star turns in “Concussion” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.” The trailer for the new film shows us an understandably serious and constantly beleaguered Smith, whose familiar features seem less recognizable and whose accent has African inflections.