Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua pulled their movie out of Georgia in protest of the state’s new voting law. Described as a big-budget slave thriller, “Emancipation” was scheduled to film in mid-June.
Fuqua and Smith said this moment demands they move the production to another state in a joint statement.
“We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access,” read the statement. “The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting.”
The statement did not seem to address the other laws across the country or the growing chorus demanding federal action via H.R. 1 and H.R. 4. Speaking previously on the MLB’s decision to remove the all-star game from Atlanta, both Stacey Abrams and Sen. Raphael Warnock said they respected the right to boycott. But they suggested companies and high-profile individuals stay and help Georgians fight.
Smith and Fuqua invoke the end of the Reconstruction era but forget the harm caused to Black southerners when Northern influences turned a blind eye to the ensuing terror and restrictive legislation, a topic covered in episode 2 of Smith’s Netflix docuseries, “Amend: The Fight for America.”
Smith hosted and executive produced the film, highlighting the struggle of the full promise of the 14th Amendment. Part of the conversation curated by Smith involves the fight for the full rights and protections of citizenship.
The right to vote is among those sacrosanct rights, and simply walking away doesn’t send the message to the state people like Smith think they are sending. It is unclear whether they will film the story about an enslaved person escaping a southern plantation outside the south.
Georgia organizers spent the entire legislative cycle fighting new restrictions after running back-to-back elections of historical implications. While several Hollywood elites and businesses have come out in opposition to the rushed law, few spoke out when it mattered.
The current discussion of Georgia boycotts mimics similar threats of boycott in 2019 after Kemp signed an unconstitutional six-week abortion ban. The ban was later struck down in court.
Georgia corporate leaders were critical in getting former Gov. Nathan Deal to veto a law in 2016 that advocates said discriminated against the LGBTQ+ community. The corporate community also was vocal last summer around the passage of a Hate Crime law.
Voting rights advocates hoped Georgia corporations would move into action before Gov. Brian Kemp signing the law. Before the passage of Georgia’s voter suppression law, Salesforce was the only major Georgia-based corporation to have a clear statement opposing the new law or any legislation restricting voting rights.