Italian 12 Years A Slave promoters criticised for over-promoting white actors on movie posters

Marketing material for the Steve McQueen film heralds the roles of Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender ahead of the  main character Chiwetel Ejiofor

Hollywood studio Lionsgate has vowed to recall “unauthorised” Italian cinema posters for the Oscar-tipped drama 12 Years A Slave, after they were criticised for promoting the film’s white stars ahead of its black protagonist.

Marketing material for the Steve McQueen film heralds the roles of Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender ahead of the  main character Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Pitt was a producer on the Hollywood studio Lionsgate film, but plays only a small part as a good-hearted Canadian labourer. But Ejiofor appears in almost every frame of the movie about the real historical figure Solomon Northup, a free  black man from 1840s New York, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery.

A spokesman for Lionsgate, whose Summit label is handling the film overseas, told Variety: “The 12 Years a Slave  theatrical posters featuring Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender that were recently released in Italy were unauthorized and were not approved by any of the producers or licensors of the film. Summit Entertainment, acting as exclusive sales agent for the licensors, is investigating and taking immediate action to stop the distribution of any unauthorized posters and to have those posters currently in the marketplace recalled.”

The Tumblr blog Carefree Black Girl drew attention to the poster on Sunday (22 December). “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…

“I sure don’t know anything about marketing strategy to appeal audiences but isn’t this going to [sic] far?”

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