‘We Cannot in Good Conscience Provide Economic Support:’ Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua Pull Film Production Out of Georgia

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Shanelle Genai
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 Will Smith at the Premiere of 20th Century Fox’s “Spies In Disguise” on December 04, 2019 in Los Angeles, California; Director Antoine Fuqua attends “The Magnificent Seven” premiere on September 19, 2016 in New York City.
Will Smith at the Premiere of 20th Century Fox’s “Spies In Disguise” on December 04, 2019 in Los Angeles, California; Director Antoine Fuqua attends “The Magnificent Seven” premiere on September 19, 2016 in New York City.

Emancipation, the upcoming “runaway slave thriller” from Apple, Warner Bros., director Antoine Fuqua and starring Will Smith will no longer be filmed in Georgia, The Root has learned.

This move reportedly comes as a direct response to the new voter law signed by Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp that imposes more restrictive voting policies that many believe directly and disproportionately affect Black and minority voters. Deadline reports this decision was also made after weeks of talks between filmmakers and film execs both in Georgia and Louisiana and Stacey Abrams who, along with Tyler Perry, have been urging studios not to pull projects out of Georgia because of Kemp’s decision. The film is now expected to film in Louisiana, where the real events of Emancipation actually took place.

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More details on Emancipation per Deadline:

Smith will play Peter, a slave who fled a plantation in Louisiana after he was whipped within an inch of his life. He had to outwit cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on a tortuous journey North. There, he joined the Union Army. The thriller is based on his true story, seared into the annals of history by an indelible image; when Peter showed his bare back during an Army medical examination, photos were taken of the scars from a whipping delivered by an overseer on the plantation owned by John and Bridget Lyons that nearly killed him. When the photo—which came to be known as “the scourged back”—was published by the Independent in May, 1863 and then in the Harper’s Weekly July 4 issue, it became indisputable proof of the cruelty and barbarity of slavery in America. The photo reached around the world. It solidified the cause of abolitionists and prompted many free Blacks to join the Union Army.

“At this moment in time, the Nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice,” Fuqua and Smith said in a statement. “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access. The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”

Filming for Emancipation is set to begin this summer.