Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer) was set to film his upcoming Emancipation in the former confederate state of Georgia. Those plans have changed following Georgia’s Republican legislature and governor enacting the Election Integrity Act of 2021.
While the name of that bill suggests its purpose is to strengthen elections in Georgia, critics claim Governor Brian Kemp actually signed legislation that suppresses the right to vote in the state, particularly for African Americans. Multiple civil rights and civil liberty organizations filed legal challenges to the law.
In addition, corporate America denounced the Election Integrity Act. Major League Baseball withdrew the 2021 All-Star Game from suburban Atlanta. Plus, Georgia-based Delta Airlines and The Coca-Cola Company publicly criticized the law.
According to Deadline, Fuqua’s Emancipation will no longer shoot in Georgia in response to the passing of the state’s Election Integrity Act. Hollywood and Hip Hop legend Will Smith (Independence Day, Bad Boys for Life) was cast for the main role in what is described as a “runaway slave thriller.”
A joint statement from Fuqua and Smith reads:
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. 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.
Emancipation is based on the true story of a slave named Peter who escaped from a Louisiana plantation to the North where he eventually joined the Union Army during the Civil War. The real-life Gordon was cemented into history books because of an 1863 image known as “The Scourged Back.” The photograph showed Gordon’s extensive back scars from torture at the hands of the plantation owners and overseers.
Antoine Fuqua’s Fuqua Films and Will Smith’s Westbrook Inc. are the credited production companies for Emancipation. William N. Collage wrote the screenplay. Apple Studios purchased the motion picture for a reported $130 million. The production is expected to move from Georgia to Louisiana in order to begin filming later this year.