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Italy Advertises ’12 Years a Slave’ With White Actors

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The movie “12 Years a Slave,” heralded as one of the best films of the years, is expected to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, and leads the Golden Globe nominations with seven nods. The star of the movie is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is winning accolades for his performance as Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York who is abducted and sold into slavery. His image has appeared on the majority of movie posters promoting “12 Years A Slave” in the United States and around the world– until recently.

The movie is headed to theaters in Italy, but the promotional posters have a very different feel from what we experienced here in the states. The poster has been redesigned with Brad Pitt as the man focus of the poster. Though Pitt played a small, yet pivotal role in the film, promotional posters in Italy seem to give him top billing over the film’s lead character, Solomon Northup.

It wasn’t just Pitt’s image that was used to replace Ejiofor as the focus. Another poster used Michael Fassbender, who played a horrific slave owner.  While usually, in movie marketing, the film’s protagonist is used in most artwork, it seems the Italian marketing strategy was to do the opposite.

Pitt and Fassbender are bigger stars in Europe and in America too — but given the subject matter of the film, it’s pretty grotesque to promote the movie by downplaying the significance of its Black star.

Italy seems to have major issues with racism lately. Earlier this year the country was under fire when Italian citizens hurled bananas and smeared blood-red paint and anti-immigrant messages onto mannequins at an event where Cécile Kyenge, Italy’s first Black prime minster, was speaking.

“Immigration kills,” read signs attached to the dummies. The far-right political group Forza Nuova (“New Force”) claimed responsibility for the mannequins. The scene was also littered with fliers that said Italy’s future growth depends on “protecting the Italian identity,” according to the ANSA news agency.

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