Will Smith and the director Antoine Fuqua have announced that their next movie will no longer be filming in Georgia. The film will be moved because of Georgia’s new voting legislation, which tightens restrictions around voting and will have disproportionate impact on Black voters. Experts have drawn comparisons between the legislation, which Governor Brian Kemp signed into law, and Jim Crow era voting restrictions.
“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,” Mr. Smith and Mr. Fuqua said 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. 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.”
Smith is starring in Emancipation, a Civil War-era drama that is being produced by Apple Studios. Fuqua’s film is the first major movie to back out of Georgia in protest of the enormously controversial new legislation, but likely won’t be the last. Georgia has become a hot destination for movie studios over the last few years, with major players like Netflix and Marvel Studios using it as a homebase for much of their original content. But studios are feeling pressure from voting rights groups to back up their sternly worded denouncements with action.
Georgia’s sweeping new legislation follows the state’s surprise leftward swing in the 2020 election, which helped deliver a victory to President Joe Biden and gave Democrats a narrow Congressional advantage. There were reports that former President Donald Trump pressured Georgia officials to tilt the results in his administration’s favor, citing baseless allegations of voter fraud. While those alleged entreaties were not successful and the new legislation is ostensibly about clamping down on sweeping voter fraud, the new laws seem likely to boost GOP fortunes in the state, offering broad control of the voting process to Georgia’s Republican Party.
Emancipation‘s move follows companies like Patagonia, Coca-Cola and Delta, which have been a source of ire for those who don’t want corporations to get involved in political activism. But such moves have drawn criticism from voting rights groups as well. Stacey Abrams, largely credited with the voter mobilization efforts that delivered the Peach State for Democrats, has urged Hollywood to keep their productions in Georgia since the film business provides so many jobs in the area.