Will Smith’s Emancipation Draws High Praise from Celebrity Pals After Private Screening

Ahead of the streaming premiere of Emancipation on Apple TV+ in December, star Will Smith hosted a private screening of the film. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), Emancipation tells the true story of a runaway slave seeking freedom, no matter what the cost. It is the first movie starring Smith to be released since the actor was involved in the Academy Awards scandal that saw him slapping Chris Rock before going on to win the Oscar for his role in King Richard.

Revealing that he had a private screening, Smith took to Instagram to post some photos of the event. He can be seen with several familiar faces in one image, including Dave Chappelle, Rihanna, Kenya Barris, Tyler Perry, ASAP Rocky, and others. Some of them have also taken to social media to offer praise to the movie.

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“EPIC night!! Thanx for coming to see Emancipation. Hope ya’ll enjoyed!!” Smith wrote in his original post.

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“This night was truly one for the books!” Barris wrote on his own Instagram account when resharing the photo. “An amazing and brilliant group of friends got together and witnessed TRUE ART. The conversation after was the effect of what anything and everything we as creatives do in this industry hope for. Love you Will Smith and thank you for hosting… Emancipation is true art, power and everything else a film should be. You got one, Will Smith.”

Tyler Perry also posted to his Instagram Stories, “I’m still haunted by Emancipation. It’s truly powerful, moving and captivating. And the conversation afterwards with this group was legendary. Thank you, Will Smith, for the preview.”

Will Smith Could Potentially Win an Oscar for Emancipation

Apple TV+

After the incident at the Oscars, Emancipation had been postponed at Apple TV+ due to the controversy. As the months have rolled by, however, the backlash against Smith has cooled down considerably. By switching gears and releasing Emancipation this year after all, the movie will now be eligible for nominations at the Oscars in 2023. Potentially, Smith could be up for the Best Actor nod again, as while he’s been banned from attending all Academy-hosted events for the next decade, he’s still eligible to be nominated for awards.

“Throughout my career, I’ve turned down many films that were set in slavery,’ Smith said of why he wanted to do Emancipation at a previous screening of the film. “I never wanted to show us like that. And then this picture came along. And this is not a film about slavery. This is a film about freedom. This is a film about resilience. This is a film about faith. This is a film about the heart of a man — what could be called the first viral image.”

Referring to a famous image of the former slave the film is based on, Smith added, “Cameras had just been created, and the image of whipped Peter went around the world. It was a rallying cry against slavery, and this was a story that exploded and blossomed in my heart that I wanted to be able to deliver to you in a way that only Antoine Fuqua could deliver.”

Emancipation is set to hit movie theaters on Dec. 2, 2022, followed by a streaming release on Apple TV+ on Dec. 9, 2022. You can check out the first trailer for the movie below.