Georgia’s controversial new voting restrictions caused director Antoine Fuqua and actor Will Smith to move production on their $100 million thriller, set to begin production soon, from that state to Louisiana, according to the mayor's office in New Orleans.
The script is based loosely on the story of “Whipped Pete,” the Louisiana slave whose scarred back is one of the most famous images of the Civil War.
The Republican-majority Georgia General Assembly and GOP Gov. Brian Kemp approved new laws on the heels of Donald Trump’s loss and two Democratic U.S. senators wins in that once ruby red state. The new laws shortened the duration of absentee voting, added more identification requirements, limited the use of drop boxes, and criminalized handing out food or water to voters standing in line.
"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, the movie's director, and Smith said in a joint statement to Variety, a trade publication. "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."
How about a statue of “Whipped Pete”?
"They made the decision to [move] based on the voter laws that were passed in Georgia recently,” City of New Orleans spokesman Beau Tidwell told WWL after Louisiana became the place the production headed.
"Emancipation," which was scheduled to begin filming on June 21 near Savannah, stars Smith as Peter, a fugitive from slavery who is fleeing Louisiana in the hopes of traveling north to freedom. Fuqua will direct from a script by William N. Collage.
The story is based on “Whipped Pete,” whose real name was Gordon. He ran away in March 1863 from the Lyons plantation on the Atchafalaya River near what is now Krotz Springs. Rubbing onions on his body to throw off his pursuer’s dogs, Gordon walked barefoot through swamps — now traversed by elevated U.S. 190 — before running into Union troops who ferried him to Baton Rouge. It took about 10 days.
While getting a medical examination, Yankee doctors were shocked by the sight of his back, though one wrote that he had seen dozens that just like it. The famous photograph was taken in the doctor’s tent about where Florida Street now crosses Interstate 110 at the edge of downtown Baton Rouge.
The photograph was widely published at the time and helped make ending slavery a goal for the Civil War. Gordon later joined the Union Army.
Right-wing bloggers and emailers are calling on moviegoers to boycott the film when it is made and released.