Deadline is reporting that Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith are set to work together on Emancipation, a slavery drama based on one of history’s most powerful images, a photograph titled ‘the scourged back’.
The scar tissue smothering the back of a runaway plantation slave named Gordon, administered to him on a property owned by John and Bridget Lyons, is the historical foundation upon which William N. Collage’s action-thriller is built.
According to Deadline, Emancipation will chart the harrowing escape of Peter, a runaway slave forced to outwit cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on a tortuous journey North. Using onions to mask his scent from pursuing bloodhounds, and his strength and smarts to survive running barefoot through the swamps for 10 days, the tale takes a turn reminiscent of such survival tales as Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.
Commenting upon the project, Fuqua said “It was the first viral image of the brutality of slavery that the world saw, which is interesting, when you put it into perspective with today and social media and what the world is seeing, again. You can’t fix the past, but you can remind people of the past and I think we have to, in an accurate, real way. We all have to look for a brighter future for us all, for everyone. That’s one of the most important reasons to do things right now, is show our history. We have to face our truth before we can move forward.”
You can read the full in-depth interview here.
Will Smith, James Lassiter and Jon Mone will serve in a producorial capacity through Westbrook Studios with McFarland Entertainment’s Joey McFarland and Escape Artists’ Todd Black. Fuqua will executive produce under his Fuqua Films banner, alongside Cliff Roberts.
Both Fuqua and Smith were hard at work on other projects before the pandemic. The Training Day director was wrapping up Infinite, while Smith was filming tennis drama King Richard, based on the father of Venus and Serena Williams. Emancipation will likely head before cameras in early 2021.