'Sapphires' U.S. DVD Art Could be Scrapped After Racism Complaints

The U.S. distributor of the Australian feel-good film "The Sapphires" is apologizing for the DVD cover, which has had complaints of sexism and racism levelled against it.

Anchor Bay Entertainment said in a statement Monday that it "regrets any unintentional upset" caused by the DVD art, which will be on U.S. store shelves Tuesday. The entertainment company says it is considering new cover art for future shipments.

"The Sapphires" is based on the true story of an all-female Australian indigenous singing group -- Naomi Mayers, Beverly Briggs, Lois Peeler and Laurel Robinson -- who overcame prejudice at home to achieve success that included touring Vietnam in 1968 to entertain American troops.

The tale is built around the central characters Gail (played by Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy), Kay (Shari Sebbens) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell), who are discovered and guided by a talent scout, played by Irish actor Chris O'Dowd.

In the artwork for the Australian DVD, which can be seen below, the four actresses appear prominently in the foreground with O’Dowd in the background. The U.S. version, which is seen above, showcases O'Dowd and places the four actresses in the background.

The original Sapphires have called the DVD cover “disrespectful” of the “very talented young Aboriginal actors in the film, and it's disrespectful to us as a group.”

In a letter to the U.S. lobby group National Association For The Advancement Of Coloured People, the artists write: “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. That trauma – and much of that treatment – remains alive and well in Australia today, as I know it does in the United States.”

The letter continues, “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.”

O'Dowd has called the DVD artwork “vile,” and commentators have taken to social networks to slam the image.

The film was distributed in the U.S. cinemas earlier this year through the Weinstein Group, with Columbia Records releasing the soundtrack.

In Australia, the “Sapphires” was the most successful homegrown film at the box office for 2012 and it’s ranked in the all-time top 20 of grossing films in Australia.  

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