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Will Smith returns to the Oscar race with Emancipation after Chris Rock slap

Can Will Smith get another Oscar nomination only a year after the slap? We're about to find out. 

Apple TV+ has announced that Emancipation, a new movie starring Smith as a runaway slave, will premiere this December, meaning it will be eligible for the 2023 Academy Awards. The first trailer for the film was also released.

The New York Times previously reported that Apple was debating when to release Emancipation after Smith slapped Chris Rock on stage at the 2022 Oscars, raising questions over whether the film could still be an awards contender. 

The Academy has banned Smith from attending the Oscars for the next 10 years. But he was not banned for being nominated or even winning, opening up the possibility he could earn a Best Actor nod for Emancipation but be unable to attend the ceremony.

Apple held the first screening of Emancipation with the NAACP over the weekend, after which NAACP President Derrick Johnson tweeted that he "can't begin to tell how powerful this is for OUR community and OUR history," calling the movie a "story of adversity, of resilience, of love, and of triumph." 

Apple's decision to release Emancipation in December may have been driven by the fact that it isn't believed to have any other Best Picture contenders in the mix this season. But it's an open question whether Academy voters will be willing to embrace the film, and especially Smith's performance in it, so soon after the slap controversy. Smith apologized for his behavior at the Oscars in July, saying there's "no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment."