“The Sapphires” is reportedly one of the very best films of the the year. It’s won all kinds of awards! But the DVD cover is … problematic. The flick stars Chris O’Dowd as the manager of a ’60s girl group in Australia comprised of four Aboriginal women, including “Australian Idol” runner-up Jessica Mauboy. Based on real events, “The Sapphires” is a love story that also tackles the racism these women faced in their native Australia. Alas, the U.S./Canada DVD cover for the film (above) plops O’Dowd front and center while the four women — their darker skin tones appearing blue along with the graphic design — smaller, behind him in the background.
The American DVD of “The Sapphires” echoes newspaper advertisements that I also saw for the movie. I remember reading The New York Times back when the movie was in theaters and seeing it only depicted O’Dowd.
The four female co-stars — Mauboy, Deborah Mailman, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell— women of color all, were erased entirely. That’s totally counter to how the film was advertised elsewhere, as evident by this poster I found on IMDB:
In a post on the Australian blog MamaMia, blogger Rosie Waterland rightfully bopped the film for its racism and sexism:
The negative implications of making a film about black women look like it’s about a white manshould outweigh any marketing concerns. This film is not only about women, it’s about Indigenous women. That fact deserves to be celebrated. Hiding those women and the colour of their skin under a veil of blue in a ridiculously photoshopped background – behind a man – is absurd. The actresses’ names are Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Sharri Sebens and Miranda Tapsell. They are women. They are indigenous. And they are the stars of this movie. That should be a selling point, not something pushed into the background.
A spokesperson for “The Sapphires” producers — who, to be clear, are not the distributors, that would be Anchor Bay — denied the cover was sexist or racist in the Sydney Morning Herald. ”Every territory changes the artwork for their market,” said the spokesperson.” It’s drawing a long bow to call it sexist or racist.” Really? Is it really?
He wrote: “It’s ridiculous, it’s misleading, it’s ill-judged, insensitive and everything the film wasn’t.”
In another tweet, according to the Herald, O’Dowd referred to the cover as “pretty vile.” Neither Mauboy, nor Sebbens have commented about it on Twitter.
An Australian woman has started a Change.org petition to discourage Anchor Bay, the distributor, not to downplay the four female costars on the DVD’s cover. You can sign it here.
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