US distributer of 'Pride' accused of playing down film's gay subject matter

Packaging for DVD of acclaimed British film ignores themes of homosexuality

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The Independent Culture

Hailed as one of the feelgood films of 2014, Pride was also celebrated for championing gay rights in a way that few movies have done before – but clearly not everyone thought that would make people want to watch it.

The designers of the cover for the US DVD release have been accused of putting the film back in the closet, by removing any reference to Pride’s homosexual themes.

Based on the true events of the LGBT activists who marched in solidarity with coal miners during their strike in 1984, the film received huge critical acclaim when it was released in September.

Yet the artwork on the film’s DVD and Bluray release in the US appears to have a number of changes from the British version – which some critics have dubbed “straightwashing”.

On the back cover of the US edition, the photograph of activists marching past the Houses of Parliament appears to have had a sign reading “Lesbians & gays support the miners” digitally removed from the background.

The synopsis on the US version has been expanded to explain the circumstances around the strike, but again removes references to homosexuality. What had been a reference to the “London-based group of gay and lesbian activists” in Britain became simply “London-based activists”.

Pride, which stars Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy, was released on DVD in the US shortly before Christmas by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, after the rights to the film were bought by CBS Films.

The director of the BFI film fund, Ben Roberts, who himself is gay, said: “I’m not surprised that the US distributors have taken a decision to sell more copies by watering down the gay content. I’m not defending it – it’s wrong and outmoded – but I’m not surprised.”

He added: “It’s an unfortunate commercial reality both here and in the US that distributors have to deal with. LGBT material is largely marginalised outside of rare hits like Brokeback Mountain.”

The cultural commentator Matt Cain, who is gay, said: “If the distributors have deliberately taken elements out of the artwork to seem less gay, that’s a real shame, as it is totally contrary to the spirit of the film.”

Yet Mr Cain, the former culture editor of Channel 4 News, said one positive outcome could be that more people see the film.

“You have to assume the marketing guys know what they are doing. If they think tweaking the packaging will bring in a more mainstream audience that may be okay. It’s not like the content of the film is different.”

While Pride was not a box office smash, it was hailed by the critics and has already won a string of awards. In the US, it has been nominated for Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards in the category of best comedy or musical film. It was also the big winner at the British Independent Film Awards in December, beating Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner to win the top domestic prize.