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Italian distributor withdraws and apologizes for '12 Years a Slave' posters

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BIM Distribuzione, the Italian distributor of 12 Years a Slave, has recalled and apologized for its controversial promotional posters that prominently feature Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender rather than Chiwetel Ejiofor, the star of the film.

The company called the posters “unauthorized” and “inconsistent with approved advertising materials,” which echoes the official statement by Lionsgate last week that claimed the posters “were not approved by any of the producers or licensors of the film.”

"We are very proud of the film,” BIM said, “and regret any distraction this incident may have caused.”

This apology comes on the heels of an Internet controversy that began with a viral post on the Italy-based Tumblr Carefree Black Girl, which pointed out the irony of foregrounding the white supporting cast instead of the black protagonist. The Brad Pitt poster in particular is strikingly tone-deaf and almost comical, as Pitt's role in the story comes quite late in the film and his on-screen appearance is brief. By contrast, the US posters for 12 Years a Slave feature only Ejiofor, set against a stark white background, running for his life.

The antebellum period drama, directed by Steve McQueen and based on the real-life story of a free-born New Yorker who was brutally kidnapped and sold into slavery, is widely considered a heavyweight contender this awards season, having already received four SAG honors and seven Golden Globe nominations. Ejiofor is likely to receive a nod for Best Actor when the nominees are announced on January 16.

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