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'Emancipation' Moving Production Out Of Georgia Due To New Voting Laws

Actor Will Smith, here in Paris in January 2020, is starring in and producing the film <em>Emancipation</em>.
Thomas Samson
AFP via Getty Images
Actor Will Smith, here in Paris in January 2020, is starring in and producing the film Emancipation.

Director Antoine Fuqua and actor Will Smith, who together are producing the upcoming 1860s-set film Emancipation, announced Monday that they are moving the film's production out of Georgia due to the state's newly enacted voting laws.

In a statement provided to NPR on Monday morning, Fuqua and Smith 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."

Emancipation, which was scheduled to begin filming in June, is based on the true story of an enslaved man named Peter (played by Smith), who escaped from a Louisiana plantation and joined the Union Army.

It set a film festival-buying record in July when Apple won the worldwide rights for some $120 million during the virtual Cannes market.

The new Georgia voting laws, signed by Gov. Brian Kemp last month, include limitations on mail-in voting and add new identification requirements, among other changes. Critics say that these measures disproportionately harm communities of color.

Major League Baseball has already pulled its All-Star Game from Atlanta and moved it to Colorado in response. Large Georgia-based companies, including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, have publicly criticized the new laws as well, calling them "unacceptable."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.