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US distributor apologises for 'whitewashing' aboriginal cast from The Sapphires DVD cover

Anchor Bay Entertainment has apologised for its use of a cover for the US DVD release of The Sapphires which “whitewashed” the four female aboriginal stars, and promoted guest star Chris O’Dowd to front and centre prominence.

The US & Canada region 1 DVD cover

In a statement the company said the decision was “unintentional, and is considering redesigning the cover for future shipments.

Rosemary Blight and Kylie du Fresne, producers of the film, welcomed the statement from Anchor Bay.

"As the producers of The Sapphires, it has always been our hope that the film would play a part in building mutual respect and understanding between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of Australia,'' they said in a statement.

"The Sapphires showed that four talented Aboriginal women, with the assistance and commitment of their fair-minded white manager, were able to break significant historical ground.

"This is one of the central themes of the film - black and white working equally hard, together and harmoniously, to achieve equality and enlightenment for the benefit of all."

The original Sapphires also voiced their personal concern in a letter to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"As I'm sure you can appreciate, the treatment of people of colour in Australia mirrored much of the trauma to which people in the United States were subjected," the women said in a letter on their behalf signed by Sol Bellear, the chairman of the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service.

"The US cover of the DVD completely misses this point, and in fact reinforces precisely the sort of bigotry that Naomi, Beverly, Lois and Laurel fought so hard against."

"We're hopeful that the NAACP - with its long and proud history of advocating strongly for the interests of people of colour - will add its significant voice to calls for the DVD cover to be changed."

Lesley Johns of Precise Media, with a special interest in indigenous affairs, told The Drum that the US region cover "smacks of racism."

"Surely in 2013 we are better than this? Surely the DVD distributors made this decision based on notoriety – and not race. Or was it sexism? Whatever the reasoning for this decision, it’s just plain dumb."