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USA Distributor Of Aussie Hit ‘The Sapphires’ Faces Charges Of Racism, Sexism For Changing DVD Cover

USA Distributor Of Aussie Hit 'The Sapphires' Faces Charges Of Racism, Sexism For Changing DVD Cover

So, here’s the deal… I’m just not in the mood to get worked up over matters like this today, so I’ll give you the goods, and you guys can debate/discuss if you’d like.

In short, Anchor Bay Entertainmentthe American distributor of the Australian film The Sapphires has put itself in a bit of a jam, and is having to apologize for the Stateside DVD cover of the film, which was altered dramatically from the Australian DVD cover of the film – a move that drew strong criticism of the company.

I think the images speak for themselves, as you can see below – the Australian version of the cover on the left; the USA version of the cover on the right. You can see why Anchor Bay was criticized for the move – one that has been labeled sexist and racist.

Anchor Bay Entertainment said in a statement that it “regrets any unintentional upset” caused by the DVD cover, which will be on USA store shelves today, adding that “new cover art is being considered for future replenishment orders.” 

The Weinstein Company acquired global distribution rights to the Australian film, after it screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, and released it in theaters to strong box office.

The Sapphires is inspired by the real-life story of a soul singing quartet comprised of 4 Aborigine women (all sisters) who were the heroines of a play in which writer/director Wayne Blair was an actor in 2005.

Fast-forward 7 years later, and that experience was been reimagined as a feature-length film.

Branded as Australia’s answer to The Supremes, the film’s full synopsis reads:

1968 was the year the planet went haywire. All around the globe, there were riots and revolution in the streets. There were hard drugs, soft drugs, free love and psychedelic music. There was the shock of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy’s assassinations. And dominating every other news story… There was Vietnam. For four gorgeous young women from a remote Aboriginal mission, 1968 was the year that changed their lives forever. Sisters Gail, Julie and Cynthia, together with their cousin Kay, are discovered by Dave, a down-on-his-luck Irish musician with attitude, a taste for Irish Whiskey and an ear for Soul Music. Dave steers the girls away from their Country & Western origins then flies them to the war-zones of South Vietnam, where they sing Soul Classics for the American Marines. On tour in the Mekong Delta, the girls sing up a storm, dodge bullets… And fall in love.

The Sapphires stars Chris O’Dowd, Aboriginal actress Deborah Mailman, pop singer Jessica MauboyShari SebbensMiranda Tapsell, and Tory Kittles.

It was a box off smash in Australia – the best opening for an Australian movie in almost two years at the time – and was rewarded by the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards.

Here are the 2 DVD covers side by side – again, the Australian version of the cover on the left; the USA version of the cover on the right.

Watch the trailer for the film below; and underneath you’ll find an additional clip:

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It is common to put a known star prominent on a cover even if they aren’t in the movie very long. Just take a look at Ferris Beuller starring "Charlie Sheen" who was in it 5 minutes or less. Yeah O’Dowd is pushing it as far as famous goes but marketers like names and he’s the best they had. Also from an artistic viewpoint the one on the right is better with more color unity and a single focus. Does it suck that this happens, yes. Does it suck that the black ladies were made blue, hell yes. But I don’t think race even crossed the mind of the artist or marketing folks involved.


Is it just me, or did Jess Mauboy get on the USA version twice and Mailman get totally bumped? Not just faded into blue, but faded into nothing!

Giovanni Torre

I'm Australian. Funnily enough I've met Deborah Mailman (she's great). Reading the article before seeing the two covers compared I didn't know what to expect – and when I saw them I could barely believe it. The four women are faded into blue, for goodness' sake, and their names cut out. If the US company wanted him front and centre they could have done it without almost erasing the other actors. Jesus wept.

Having seen the film I'd say the five actors are the leads, with Deborah Mailman as the standout (though Mauboy, Sebbens and Tapsell are all really strong). The US cover is absurd. There's no case whatsoever for fading the four women into the background so one is left no choice but to conclude that sexism and racism played a part.


I enjoyed the Sapphires. Did the manager in actuality marry one of the Sapphires?


Sapphires is a great film! That's right, in spite of the white-washed cover, imo, this film is one of the best, if not the best I've seen this year.

Great storylines, great acting, a love affair between Chris O’Dowd and one of the lead singers, family turmoil, racial tension, death & danger (Viet Nam war zone) and fantastic music/singing made this film an enjoyable experience.


Eh.. more typical Hollywood racist bs.. what else is new.

why, terry

Speaking of DVD cover art injustices, anyone see that garbage To the Wonder cover? Completely misrepresents the film!


I almost thought the poster on the left is the US version. I thought most movie goers like girls on the poster. Chris O'Dowd is not that popular yet in US. Maybe the movie targets gay people and women who may find Chris O'Dowd attractive?


I'm pleasantly surprised that they (whoever created and greenlit the US cover) are rightfully being called out for this. Prior to reading this article (which is the first time I'm seeing the Australian cover), I saw the US ad for the film and had a head tilt/mental "head scratch" moment. Without any context, it makes no sense that a film called "The Sapphires," presumably about the four women in the background, would have a white man featured prominently and centered in the foreground. The only sliver of ground they have to stand on is the fact that Chris Dowd is something of a "name"/rising start in the States… but even so.


I think the USA cover looks like that because in the USA he's a star and the other women aren't. he has a show on HBO and has been in a number of films. compared to the others he's the headliner. It makes sense to make him the center of the ad.



Get a freakin' grip. I'm black and this 'racism' narrative we as black people have been espousing for the past several months has gotten downright pathetic and embarrassing. Look, I'm VERY aware that racism exists, but it's gotten to the point that people can't even flush a freakin' toilet without people screaming how prejudice that act is! FYI, the American film system is built around (GASP!) the STAR SYSTEM. What is the star system you ask? Basically, the film industry is a BUSINESS. Therefore, the goal is to sell as many products as possible. Since we are in the United States and this was a movie made in Australia, none of the principals are familiar to us…except for (GASP!) Mr Dowd. Whoever designed this cover obviously wanted to capitalize on his popularity (I guess) to sell as many DVD's, uploads, etc. as possible. In fact, he is the only recognizable actor on the cover. Hence, he was moved towards the front and the ladies toward the back. This act is really not new. If you've done your research, you'd realize that this happens all the time when A-list or even B-list celebrities do an independent feature. Heck, the person could simply walk across the frame for 5 seconds, but the fact that he/she is in the film is a major selling point. (DUH!) This has been a contentious issue for years! Do you remember the horror film SCREAM that came out in 1996? Which person was featured the most? Was it Neve Campbell? Courtney Cox? David Arquette? NO! It was Drew Barrymore, and she got killed in the first ten minutes!

We really need to get off this prejudice kick that we as black people seem to be on lately. Personally, I think the case is fine. In fact, one of the singers is fair skinned. So we can't say that the producers were totally against people of darker skin tone. If we continue this pathetic tirade that we are being neglected all of the time, then we are just going to come off as aloof, disconnected, and totally unaware. We can do better than this. The only people who are crying racism have little to no knowlege of how the film industry works as a whole.


The more things change . . . .

Damn white people.


This is very sad I just read an Australian article in the Sydney morning herald and their film editor actually agreed that the USA DVD cover is fine. This is so disappointing, this movie is about the four Australian women they should be front and center on the DVD not the white guy. I am glad people are calling out the BS of the USA distributor of the Sapphires.


America the gift that just keeps giving smh


I hope it's okay to post this additional info, which was per another site on Indie Wire called Women in Hollywood:

"O'Dowd called the cover 'ridiculous, it's misleading, it's ill-judged, insensitive and everything the film wasn't. ' "

There will probably be an update to this story by Tambay, especially since it appears the NAACP has been contacted by four of the original members in the group, according to an online Australian newspaper called the (sorry, can't post the link because its coming up as spam) the title of the piece is "Sapphires protest 'racist' cover" by Saffron Howden

Jasher Scott

To be fair, the movie was white-washed even in the Aussie version. Chris O'Dowd's character was made up for the movie.

Tonton Michel

Can't sell a movie to white folks unless they are prominently featured. This is law.


OH NO! Not another Five Heartbeats!

But wait, who the hell is Chris O'Dowd? Seriously, I can only assume Nun is speaking for white folks 'cause I think most blacks would run to the movie if Eddie Kane Jr. was on the cover.

"nights like this, I wish, rain drops would fall"


I've gotta be the voice of dissent here. I can see why people might see this as racially motivated, but it looks like the US distributor was just trying to capitalize on Chris O'Dowd. Dude was in Bridesmaids, Girls, and other titles that folks will recognize. The actresses, on the other hand, are mostly popular overseas. It's the same reason Jessica Mauboy is front and center on the Aussie cover – because she's a big pop star over there. Americans just don't know the actresses as well as they do overseas (yet). As much as I love Deborah Mailman, I'd bet money that I'm the only one. I'm all for calling out racism where it exists, but this ain't it.


If ever there were a doubt, and there are many doubters out there, this side-by-side comparison lays those doubts to rest.


Oh, the blatancy!!! If the damn film is about a group of soul-singing Aboriginal women, then why the cuss would the cover have to be changed to deflect from the fact that the film is about a group of soul-singing Aboriginal women? Why bother to distribute the darn thing in the first place here? Sorry, but as much as white people may wish to change facts, black people are responsible for much of the music we ALL cut our teeth to over the past 100 or so years, and that extends to other folks across the globe. "Whitewashing" that mess will not do anything to revise the history. And these muckers knew what the deal was when they did this. BS on their apology. Here's a tip: before doing stupid and having to save face when the backlash hits, don't do stupid, period. FFS…


White people… *smh*


Just won't let the Blacks win.

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