U.S. The Sapphires DVD Cover Puts The White Man Front And Centre

American DVD and Blu-Ray distribution company Anchor Bay has been accused of racism and not really watching the films it distributes after the egregious in-house cover artwork for its release of feelgood Australian musical comedy-drama The Sapphires presented [very] white and [very] male Irish actor Chris O’Dowd as the heart, soul and protagonist of a film in which he provides a supporting role while the group of Indigenous Australian actresses who carry the film – Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell – are literally fading into the background.

Granted, American audiences would be exponentially more familiar with the work (and face) of O’Dowd whose recent credits include The IT Crowd, Bridesmaids and Girls, but it remains an unthinkable misrepresentation of what – and who – the film is about. Namely, those azure-hued faces in the background.

For comparative purposes here is the local Australian poster artwork. We really appreciate how unlike the American version it acknowledges both the actresses’ importance to the film and the lack of Avatar-blue in their skin tone. 

When pressed, O’Dowd would later call the cover “vile” while the original members of The Sapphires – Laurel Robinson, Naomi Mayers, Lois Peeler and Beverley Briggs – have called for a boycott of the release by appealing to the political might of the African-American civil rights and lobbying organisation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“As I’m sure you can appreciate, the treatment of people of colour in Australia mirrored much of the trauma to which people in the United States were subjected,” a letter penned by the chairman of the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service, Sol Bellear, on the quartet’s behalf reads. “That trauma – and much of that treatment – remains alive and well in Australia today, as I know it does in the United States. The US cover of the DVD completely misses this point, and in fact reinforces precisely the sort of bigotry that Naomi, Beverly, Lois and Laurel fought so hard against. We’re hopeful that the NAACP – with its long and proud history of advocating strongly for the interests of people of colour – will add its significant voice to calls for the DVD cover to be changed.”

The Sapphires earned rave reviews at Cannes and won eleven of the twelve awards (including Best Feature Film) it was nominated for at the 2013 AACTA Awards.