Will Smith Hosts ‘Emancipation’ Screening for Rihanna, Dave Chappelle, More

Will Smith has been rather quiet since the Oscars. His Oscar slap of Chris Rock led to Smith voluntarily resigning from the Motion Picture Academy, the Academy banning Smith from Academy events for 10 years, and several of Smith’s movie projects put on hold. Smith released a video apologizing to Rock, and he just screened his 2022 movie Emancipation for a group that included Rihanna, Dave Chappelle, Kenya Barris and Tyler Perry.

Will Smith looks to the left in the 'Emancipation' poster
Will Smith | Apple TV+

Smith, Barris and Perry posted about the Emancipation screening on Instagram. Emancipation opens Dec. 2 in theaters and premieres Dec. 9 on Apple TV+.

Who attended the Will Smith ‘Emancipation’ screening?

Smith and his guests posted the same group shot of the gang in the screening room for Emancipation. Smith tagged Chappelle, Rihanna, Barris, Perry, A$AP Rocky, Cory “Blacksmith” Smyth, and fashion designer Fawn. Barris tagged most of the above and added black-ish/grown-ish/BlackAF writer Esa Lewis.

Smith captioned his Instagram post “EPIC night!!” Fawn wrote, “Amazing nite” and Lewis wrote, “Only thing I can say is Black people have come a long ass way and every time I’m reminded, I gotta thank God.” The posts appeared Oct. 24 suggesting the screening took place the evening of Oct. 23.

Chappelle is playing both sides, as it were, as he also appeared on stage at standup shows with Rock.

Reactions to the Will Smith ‘Emancipation’ screening

Barris and Perry shared the most detailed reactions to Emancipation. Perry posted a picture of the screening room and wrote, “This conversation was one for the history books.” 

The Hollywood Reporter also cited an earlier post in which Perry wrote, “I’m still haunted by Emancipation. It’s truly powerful, moving and captivating. And the conversation afterwards with this group was legendary. Thank you Will Smith for the preview!”

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Barris wrote, This night was truly one for the books! An amazing and brilliant group of friends got together and witnessed TRUE ART. The conversation after was the effect of what anything and everything we as creatives do in this industry hope for. Love you @willsmith and thank you for hosting.

The long road to ‘Emancipation’

Emancipation has had quite a story of its own getting to the screen. Smith teamed up with director Antoine Fuqua to make the film about a runaway slave who joins the Union army after escaping the plantation that enslaved him. Emancipation is based on a true story.

They were all set to film the movie in Georgia, a prolific hub for Hollywood productions. But, when Georgia passed new laws restricting voter rights and accessibility, Fuqua and Smith took a stand and moved the production

Smith had wrapped the film by the time of the Oscar slap in March. There was talk of Apple delaying the film to 2023, but they are moving forward with the December release. Emancipation screened on Oct. 1 in Washington, D.C. for the 51st Congressional Black Caucus. Fuqua and Smith participated in a conversation with Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture American Slavery curator Mary Elliott after that screening.