The Sapphires, a movie virtually no one saw when it was in theaters this spring, was released this week on DVD and Blu-Ray. And because life isn’t fair, the coverage so far isn’t about what a great little movie it was, but about the latent racism behind the artwork for the DVD case released in the U.S. market compared to the version released in the film’s native Australia.
Setting aside for a moment the fact that this is a stupid controversy, let’s consider the points on their merits. On the one hand, the film – based on the true story of an all-girl group of Aboriginal singers who found fame during a Vietnam War-era tour of military bases – is every inch an ensemble production. So it’s just plain silly (and yes, possibly racist) to consider Chris O’Dowd, who plays their manager, worthy of center-of-attention status. It’s absolutely not his character’s story, and seriously misleading to suggest otherwise.
On the other hand, the Australian and U.S. covers each place their focus on an element of the film that would be expected to draw the most attention from their respective markets. The Australian singers are the draw Down Under, because their real-life counterparts were actual stars and an inspiration to the Aboriginal people. Up here, O’Dowd, who played a strong supporting role in Bridesmaids two years ago, is the closest thing to a bankable star that the film has in the United States. I don’t see the distributor’s decision to put O’Dowd on the cover as being about racism; I view it as being about playing fast and loose with the marketing of the film in order to get more people to rent/buy/stream it. Just as is done with almost every DVD release.
That’s not to say there may not be racism at work here. Better minds than mine can continue to explore the insane discrimination that goes on every day in Hollywood and the real world. But to these untrained eyes, it looks more likely to be about greed than divisiveness and hate.
And by the way, not that anyone seems to care, but The Sapphires is a groovy little indie masterpiece. No matter who appears on the cover of the DVD, the movie inside the case is absolutely worth seeking out.