'Emancipation's Charmaine Bingwa on the film's importance

The new film Emancipation is an uncompromising look at slavery in the U.S., telling the story of the man known as "whipped Peter" -- an 1863 photograph of the whip marks on his back shocked the world. He's played by Will Smith, Charmaine Bingwa plays his wife, and she tells ABC Audio the film is tough, but necessary to watch.

"People have said do we need another slavery movie? Why now? And I just think about Peter who wore those scars on his back. And he is a human being who had to fight with every inch of his body and his soul for that life. And I just think that should be honored," she explains. "And there's so many other souls who haven't been honored in that way. So for me, that's the most rewarding thing."

Emancipation was filmed on former plantations in the south, wearing clothes the slaves would have worn, which the 37-year-old Australian actress says helped get her in character, but admits "it was also a lot on your heart and your spirit, just knowing how much people suffered in that very same place that you're walking on."

"I think you walk away with a greater appreciation of those that came before you," adds Bingwa. "You walk away with a greater appreciation for freedom. And I think you walk away a more loving, kind person."

Emancipation hits select theaters today and will stream on Apple TV+ starting Dec. 9.

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