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Producer from 'Emancipation' brought photo of enslaved man to premiere – Insider – Watch Free Movies Online Without Registration

  • A producer of Will Smith’s film “Emancipation” brought a photo of an enslaved man to the premiere.
  • Joey McFarland showed the historical image that inspired the film’s plot on the red carpet.
  • He told Variety he wanted to bring a “piece” of the man to the event, sparking an online backlash.

A producer of Will Smith’s new film “Emancipation” sparked backlash after he brought a photograph of an enslaved man to the premiere of the movie in London on Wednesday. 

Speaking to Variety on the red carpet, Joey McFarland showed off the historical image and explained why he felt he needed to bring it to the premiere. The publication reports that the image is called “The Scourged Back” and inspired the film’s plot.

As Insider previously reported, “Emancipation” tells the story of a slave named Peter (played by Smith) who flees a plantation in Louisiana after nearly being killed.

“This is the original photograph from 1863,” McFarland told reporters while holding up the image. “I wanted a piece of Peter to be here tonight.”

According to The Metropolitan Museum, the portrait depicts a runaway slave called Gordon whose back was scarred after severe whipping. It was taken at a camp of Union soldiers by the Mississippi River, where the man had been given refuge after escaping.


“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,” he said. “That’s what I sought to do.”

“It is a lesson,” McFarland added. “We need to reckon with the past.”

The producer, whose known for his work on “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Papillon,” also said that too few artifacts and photographs from history have been preserved or respected. He said that he has taken it upon himself to build a collection that he plans to donate when he died for “educational purposes.”

However, not everyone agreed with McFarland’s reasoning for displaying the photograph. 

Rebecca Wiggins, a producer and writer, responded to Variety’s tweet of McFarland and pointed out that he had called the individual “Peter,” and not “Gordon.”

“Did he just call the man “peter”? how disrespectful and cringy that he pulled it out his pocket! Gordon “was given the name ‘Whipped Peter’ for the horrific scars on his back due to constant whipping he received during his slavery”. did he brag about owning Gordon til he dies?,” Wiggins wrote. 

Will Smith arrives at the European premiere of "Emancipation" at Vue West End on December 2, 2022 in London, England.

Will Smith arrives at the European premiere of “Emancipation” in London on Friday.

Nicky J Sims/Getty Images

Another Twitter user also noticed the name McFarland used for the man and said his “enslavers called him “Peter” because they refused to use his birth name.”

“The way we strive for empathy & humanity, but still miss the mark is so grossly heartbreaking – and exhausting,” they added. 

Culture writer Delia Harrington also criticized McFarland’s action. She tweeted in response to Variety that there is “no reason” for the producer to have the collection. “He doesn’t have to wait until his death to donate them or (!) return them to family members,” she wrote. “If he believes so much in preservation & learning from history, he can use his funds, but he doesn’t need to possess the items.”

Joey McFarland did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider. 

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