Will Smith’s slavery drama “Emancipation” held its red carpet premiere earlier this week and the film’s producer Joey McFarland is drawing some criticism.
McFarland, 50, attended the event on Wednesday and brought with him a 19th-century photo of the whipped slave Peter — the portrait that inspired the film.
The Kentucky native caught up with Variety at the premiere and showed the reporter the picture in a plastic case and explained why he carried it with him as an accessory.
“I have the photo, this is the original photograph from 1863,” McFarland told the publication. “I wanted a piece of Peter to be here tonight.”
“The Wolf of Wall Street” producer added: “It’s [sad] to say so many artifacts and photographs have not been preserved or curated or respected. And I took it upon myself to curate and build a collection for future generations.”
McFarland explained he is a collector and hopes to donate the image once he dies “for educational purposes.”
“My love of history, my love of truth, my love of larger-than-life individuals that had an impact on not just some people’s lives but the world, it’s worth fighting for, it’s worth preserving, it’s worth seeking out and protecting, and that’s what I sought to do,” he said.
[‘Emancipation’] is a conversation that is needed, it needs to start and continue and keep growing and evolving. We just need to come together,” McFarland said. “We need to reckon with the past so future generations don’t make the same mistake.”
The photograph of Peter’s scourged back serves as the inspiration for the film, in which Smith, 54, portrays the runaway slave.
The Black List founder Franklin Leonard criticized McFarland’s actions, tweeting: “Why do you own the photograph? Why did you bring it to a movie premiere if the intent is to preserve it respectfully?”
He continued: “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? So many questions.”
Other fans were also confused, also blasting McFarland’s choice. “The fact that a man could be so arrogant,” one wrote. “This egotistical display is egregious and incredibly disrespectful. When will it stop?”
Another person chimed in: “He couldn’t WAIT to pull it out his pocket at the red carpet. This is gross and performative and no matter how well this movie does or doesn’t do, him proudly displaying his ownership of a photo of an enslaved man unrelated to him will always be disgusting.”
“What a colossally inappropriate thing to do on every level,” someone else wrote. “He shouldn’t own it. Shouldn’t use the wrong name for it. And definitely should not bring it to show and tell.”
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