Antoine Fuqua And Will Smith Pull 'Emancipation' Production From Georgia Due To New Voting Restrictions

Georgia seems to be on everyone's mind these days as the state has recently enacted new voting restrictions that make it far more difficult for citizens to make their voices heard, especially Black voters living in the state. In response to the new voting restrictions signed into law on March 31, Georgia-based corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines have spoken out against the new laws, and now it's starting to impact film productions that bring jobs and revenue to the state.

In a press release, director/producer Antoine Fuqua and producer/star Will Smith announced that they will be moving Apple's production of the runaway slave drama Emancipation out of Georgia because of the aforementioned voting restrictions passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp.

Emancipation was scheduled to begin filming down in Georgia in June this year. The film follows Will Smith as Peter, a fugitive from slavery on a harrowing journey north from Louisiana. Known by the name "Whipped Peter," the man emancipated himself from a Southern plantation and joined the Union Army. The name comes from a series of photos taken of Peter during his Army medical examination that appeared in the July 4 issue of Harper's Weekly. The photos in questions showed Peter's mutilated back as a result of being whipped by plantation owners John and Bridget Lyons.

After Georgia became a key state in solidifying a victory for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, Republican lawmakers in the state have been doing everything they can to keep Democratic voters from turning out in such high numbers again. Fuqua and Smith have seen what many political pundits and election experts have already pointed out. In a joint statement, they said:

"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."

This is clearly an important issue for Fuqua and Smith, because moving the production out of Georgia will cost around $15 million due to the tax rebates that originally made the state an appealing shooting location. But the cost is nothing compared to the significance of taking a stand against a state that's actively trying to oppress Black voters.

If Georgia follows through on these voting restrictions, this likely won't be the last production that ends up moving out of the state. But it remains to be seen if a big studio like Disney will take a stand by pulling various Marvel Studios productions out of the state where many movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been shot.

If this is the first you're hearing of this voting law controversy in Georgia, you can head over to USA Today for a comprehensive breakdown of all the changes the new voting laws will institute.