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‘Emancipation’ producer apologizes for bringing historical photo to red carpet

Producers Cathy Schulman and Joey McFarland introduce a special screening of Radius-TWC’s “Horns” presented by PAX by Ploom at ArcLight Hollywood on October 30, 2014 in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Invision for RADiUS-TWC/AP Images)

A producer of the newly released film “Emancipation” has publicly apologized after facing criticism for bringing a historical photo of an enslaved man to the film’s red-carpet premiere.

“I wholeheartedly apologize to everyone I have offended by bringing a photograph of Peter to the Emancipation premiere,” producer Joey McFarland said in an Instagram post on Sunday.

“My intent was to honor this remarkable man and to remind the general public that his image is not only brought about change in 1863 but still resonates and promotes change today.” 

The photo showed Peter, an escaped slave, showing off the scars on his back from repeated whippings over the years. Peter’s photo and story were the inspiration for the new period film. 

McFarland’s apology comes days after backlash from some colleagues, who questioned why he was walking around with a photo he claimed to want to preserve.

“Why do you own the photograph? Why did you bring it to a movie premiere if the intent is to preserve it respectfully? You wanted ‘a piece of Peter’ here? You collect slave memorabilia that will be donated upon your death? What do you do with it in the meantime?,” The Black List founder Franklin Leonard wrote in a tweet. “So many questions.”

McFarland said he hopes his actions don’t interfere with the message of the film, adding that he plans to collaborate with the Black community in an effort to donate historical photographs he has collected to “appropriate institutions.” 

“These photographs, which existed before me, will be around long after I am gone; they belong to the world. My goal has always been to find the right permanent home and make sure they are accessible, to honor their significance,” McFarland said. “And most importantly, that the individuals depicted in the photographs are remembered and their stories are told with the greatest dignity and respect.”

“Emancipation” revolves around a slave named Peter, played by Will Smith, and was officially released on Friday. It will release on Apple TV+ on December 9th.

Tags Emancipation Joey McFarland Will Smith
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