Will Smith's New Movie Emancipation Had Its First Screening, Here's What People Are Saying

Will Smith as Richard Williams in King Richard
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

There are a lot of questions surrounding Will Smith’s new movie Emancipation, which is set to be released on Apple TV+. The film was one of many of the actor’s projects that saw setbacks following him slapping Chris Rock at the Academy Awards in March, and therefore its release date remains unknown. It was also thought to be an awards contender, but that’s also been complicated after Smith’s slap incident. While there’s definitely a lot we don’t know, some more light is being shed on Emancipation, after the film’s screening at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 51st annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., as those in attendance take to social media with their first reactions. 

Will Smith stars in the action thriller as Peter, a slave who escapes his Louisiana plantation and joins the Union Army to fight against his former captors. Emancipation is based on the true story of Gordon, or “Whipped Peter,” who was the subject of photos released in 1863 that showed extensive scars on his back from the abuse he’d endured as a slave. Let’s see what people are saying about Antoine Fuqua’s movie and about Smith’s role in it.

Tonya J. Williams took to Twitter and called for Apple to release the film, after she witnessed the “gut-wrenching” portrayal of slavery:

Emancipation is a huge departure from Will Smith’s usual body of work, as the actor said he has avoided making movies about slavery throughout his career. Social justice advocate and political commentator Angela Rye seems to approve of his choice to take on this role, as she thanks Smith and director Antoine Fuqua for telling this “powerful” story:

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson echoes those sentiments, thanking the actor and director for this story “of adversity, of resilience, of love, and of triumph”: 

Former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile praises the depiction of Black people fighting for their freedom. She asks for a release date to be set: 

“Powerful” seems to be the word that all those in attendance keep coming back to, as Jotaka Eaddy was in agreement with the response to Antoine Fuqua’s story of resilience: 

Despite Apple winning a huge bidding war to release Emancipation on its streaming service, Amber Takahashi hopes to see the film see some sort of theatrical release: 

Attendees of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation event certainly seem to have been moved by the private showing of the movie, and hopefully a release date will come soon. As far as how things pan out for awards for Emancipation, that was made complicated when Will Smith voluntarily resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the aftermath of the Oscars fallout. The actor is also banned from attending the Academy Awards ceremony for 10 years.

While we wait for news on Emancipation, check out our 2022 movie release schedule to see what films are hitting theaters soon! 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.