Lionsgate Denounces Italian 12 Years A Slave Posters
Lionsgate Films is distancing itself from controversy and has promised action after potentially offensive posters for its film 12 Years A Slave hit the internet. The posters, which appear to be distributed only in Italy, show white actors much more prominently than star Chiwetel Ejiofor.
The studio and distribution company has called the posters “unauthorized.” The marketing was handled in Italy by distributor BIM, in conjunction with marketing consultants Fanatical About Cinema.
The film stars Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a real-life man who was born free in New York in the early 1800′s, kidnapped and sold into slavery. Freed twelve years later, Northup’s memoir became a major abolitionist document.
The film from director Steve McQueen has been one of the best reviewed of the year, and is the frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar. Ejiofor appears in nearly every scene, and has also earned raves for his performance.
But a tumblr called Carefree Black Girl, operated by an English-language blogger in Italy, first noticed the posters showing a huge image of Brad Pitt‘s face, dwarfing a smaller profile of Ejiofor below. Pitt produced the film and appears in a small role.
Later, other sites found similar posters showing Michael Fassbender, who plays Northup’s sadistic owner.
The decision to design the posters in this way was probably monetary. Pitt is one of the most famous actors in the world, and Fassbender is similarly well-known. Ejiofor has appeared in many films, and now is one of the hottest actors in Hollywood, but was not well known outside the UK before the film’s release.
Some critics think the posters represent an even bigger problem with the film itself.
“[T]his specific poster design manages to sum up one argument of the movie’s detractors,” writes the Atlantic Wire, “that Pitt plays the role of the “white savior,” swooping in at the last moment to save the day.”