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12 Years A Slave; The Poster Controversy

File this under WTF; take a look at these posters for the Italian release of 12 Years a Slave.

Notice anything odd? Like the fact that the star of the film, Chiwetel Ejiofor, is relegated to a small image in the bottom right corner while Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt's faces are HUGE?  Because make no mistake, this is Ejiofor's film and he's in almost every, if not every single solitary scene.  Not Steve McQueen's muse Michael Fassbender, who plays a major but supporting role, and certainly not Pitt who plays a minor role and is in the movie for all of five minutes.

Brought to light by "Carefree Black Girl" on her Tumblr, Variety reports the posters have the distribution company being called out for racism. Here's what the young woman who lives in Italy wrote- 
“I’ve been following the press for months and I can’t wait to watch it but REALLY? I don’t remember Brad Pitt being the protagonist of the film or having such a pivotal role in the story to stay in the middle of the poster,” the blogger wrote.  ”I sure don’t know anything about marketing strategy to appeal audiences but isn’t this going too far?”

Both Lionsgate and the distribution company have issued apologies basically saying the materials were unauthorized and will be withdrawn. 

The shameful truth is that white audiences haven't historically flocked to films featuring a predominantly black cast, whether you live in Rome, Italy or Rome, Georgia.  I wonder if as many of us white folk would have seen the film - the movie has grossed almost $38 million here in the states - were it not for the comforting cast of caucasian supporting players?  In addition to McQueen's main muse Michael Fassbender (they gave us both Shame and Hunger), and Pitt (who also produced) 12 Years a Slave also features Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulsen, Taran Killam and Scoot McNairy. 

Variety is also reporting that Golden Globe nominee Lupita Nyong'o (Patsey) has backed out of attending the Italian premiere of the movie at the Capri Hollywood Film Festival although it's not completely clear if the poster is the cause.  To fully immerse yourself in the controversy, follow the link to Variety, but let me know what you think in the comments section before you wander off. It's a wild world out there; I'm scared you may not find your way back!

Oh by the way, here's what I thought about the deeply compelling 12 Years a Slave starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. And here's the poster one more time just in case you missed the tremendous difference between the marketing materials for most of the English-speaking world and what some marketing mavens in Italy put out.