Actor/ producer Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua have announced that they’re moving a planned film production out of Georgia in protest of a restrictive voting law recently signed by Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp. The law, among other problems, imposes new ID requirements on absentee voting, restricts the usage of absentee ballot drop boxes to business hours, criminalizes outside organizations providing food and water to voters standing in line — no matter how long — and more.
Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith will move production on their big-budget, runaway slave thriller "Emancipation" out of Georgia in protest over the state's controversial new voting restrictions. https://t.co/n85hl0lXXf
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 12, 2021
The Hollywood Reporter identified Smith and Fuqua’s moved film as the first “major production” to exit Georgia over the state’s new election restrictions. Georgia is known as a center for film productions involving major companies from Netflix to Marvel, and the movie that Fuqua and Smith had been set to craft in the state is known as Emancipation, with Smith starring as “Whipped Peter,” a real-life figure who is “known for being the subject of a series of photographs that starkly showed scars from being whipped while a slave,” as The Hollywood Reporter explains.
The publication noted that the announcement “could have a cascading effect in the coming days or weeks and could put pressure on more productions to leave the state.” Smith and Fuqua commented as follows in a joint statement:
‘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.’
The Georgia legislation is poised to particularly impact marginalized communities like Black voters. For instance, it bans the usage of mobile polling places, which were used during the 2020 election cycle in Fulton County, a highly populated Atlanta-area jurisdiction with a large Black community. No systematic problems were discovered with Georgia’s election procedures before the implementation of this new legislation, which has already been hit with a few court challenges. One of the lawsuits was brought by the New Georgia Project, the Black Voters Matter Fund, and a student organization called Rise and has voting rights lawyer Marc Elias on the legal team.