Will Smith made his triumphant return to the awards circuit on Wednesday, as he accepted the Beacon Award at the African American Film Critics Association Awards.
This marked the first time the Oscar-winning actor made an in-person acceptance speech since the 2022 Academy Awards, where he created a stir by slapping Chris Rock onstage.
Accompanied by his Emancipation director, Antoine Fuqua, Smith was eager to highlight the significance of the award.
According to Fuqua, the Beacon Award recognizes films that tackle difficult subjects with insight, enlightenment, and audience engagement.
"We hoped Emancipation would bring Peter's triumphant story, unwavering faith, and deep love for his family to life," he explained, before thanking Apple, AAFCA, and the film's cast and crew.
Smith took the mic to express his appreciation for the award, but also acknowledged the challenges he faced while filming Emancipation.
"Emancipation was the most difficult film of my entire career," he shared. "It's challenging to transport a modern mind to that time period and to imagine that level of inhumanity."
The Beacon Award is highly coveted in the film industry, and receiving it is a significant accomplishment for any actor or filmmaker. It recognizes films that go beyond mere entertainment, and instead, tackle important issues that affect our society.
According to AAFCA president, Gil Robertson, the Beacon Award is intended to honor those who "use their artistry and platform to illuminate issues impacting communities of color."
As such, it has become one of the most prestigious awards in the industry, highlighting the best in African American cinema.