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Will Smith movie

“Emancipation,” a thriller about a runaway slave starring actor Will Smith, will move its production out of Georgia because of the state’s new voting laws, the movie’s director Antoine Fuqua and Smith announced Monday. 

A statement released by Fuqua and Smith through Smith’s media production company Westbrook Inc. said the new Georgia law is “reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting.” The decision makes Emancipation, which is financed by Apple Studios, the first major production to leave Georgia and shoot elsewhere after a slew of major corporations spoke out against the legislation.

“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,” Fuqua and Smith said in a statement. “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access.” 

“Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state,” they added. 

The movie was scheduled to start shooting in Georgia on June 21. According to Deadline, talks are underway to shoot the film in the Louisiana, where events of the plot take place. Smith will play Peter, a fugitive from slavery who goes on a harrowing journey north of the state, according to Westbrook Inc. 

The new law on Georgia’s 7.4 million voters contains new restrictions on absentee voting, while at the same time expanding early voting opportunities. It expands early voting access for some Georgia voters, adds an ID requirement for absentee voting, codifies the use of drop boxes with strict rules on how they can be used and sets new rules for state and local election officials. 

Some Democrats and voting rights groups were outraged by voter ID provisions and changes to mail voting that they believe will make more difficult for some minorities and poorer voters to cast a ballot.  Within days of its passing in late March, corporations spoke out against the bill and Major League Baseball pulled its All-Star Game out of the state. 

Additional reporting by Adam Brewster and Caitlin Huey-Burns. 


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