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Will Smith’s slap overshadows Emancipation movie release

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(Los Angeles) This was supposed to be a moving film about a slave’s escape through the swamps of Louisiana, but before it was released, Emancipation received an unexpected label: it is Will Smith’s first film after the Oscar. What worries its director, Antoine Fuqua.


Hollywood professionals were betting on a postponement due to the scandal, but Apple, which produces the feature film, decided to release it this weekend on US screens, despite fears of a possible public boycott.

“I’m very concerned about this,” Fuqua told AFP, hoping his film’s message won’t be swallowed up by the smell of sulfur that surrounds his lead actor.

“I hope we will have enough compassion […] at least go see the work he provided, because his work on the film is extraordinary,” adds the director.

Before shocking the world by slapping comedian Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars for a questionable joke about his wife’s hair loss, Will Smith had been conquering Hollywood since the 1990s and “was a man who looked good, in front of all of us, for 37 years old,” recalls the director.

Inspired by real events

Emancipation is inspired by the story of peter whippeda black slave remembered for the barbaric treatment meted out by his masters, before he escaped from a cotton plantation during the American Civil War.

Photos of his back, completely lacerated by lashes, have gone down in history as indelible proof of the brutality of slavery.

Will Smith embodies this character fleeing the claws of cruel masters, and whose escape Antoine Fuqua imagines through the sticky swamps of Louisiana, full of alligators, snakes and other dangers.

The director films this quest for freedom as a suspense thriller rather than a historical drama, and shows the abuses inflicted on slaves head-on. Brutal, the scenes of violence are reminiscent of those in the award-winning film 12 years a slave (Slave for twelve years).

Will Smith’s performance is undeniable, but many critics question whether the actor’s return to screens is premature, just eight months after his slapstick.

Banned from the Oscar ceremony for 10 years, after resigning from the Academy, the former Prince of Bel Air can theoretically still be selected and win a statuette. The output ofEmancipation in December it also allows Apple to present its film at the Oscars.

Memorial debates

Will Smith, who publicly apologized, “was wrong” to get carried away at the last Oscars, insists Mr. Fuqua, hoping he will reconcile with Chris Rock away from the spotlight.

But “Will is a good guy, I support that,” adds the director. During the tough shoot in the Louisiana swamps, the actor “never complained,” he notes.

The director insists on the imperative need to go out Emancipationat a time when commemorative slavery issues are causing multiple tensions in the United States.

“There are discussions about not teaching slavery in certain schools […]as if they want to erase the past,” Fuqua indignant.

The Republican Party strongly opposed reforms that they considered changing the way slavery was taught and addressing systemic racism.

American children should not “learn that our country is inherently evil,” Senate conservative chief Mitch McConnell and other lawmakers said last year.

Mr. Fuqua draws a parallel between these resistances and the clichés of peter whippedneeded to silence voices that sought to minimize the horrors committed in the name of slavery in the late 19th centuryAnd century.

“That’s why it’s so important to keep museums open, to bring all these things to life,” she said. “Many children don’t even know what slavery is. »

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