12 Years a Slave… the story of one man’s journey from Canada to the Deep South to rescue a poor man from slavery.
If you lived in Italy and stubbornly refused to read movie reviews, that might be the impression formed by a quick glimpse at the movie’s poster. The artwork features the oversized head of Brad Pitt, while Chiwetel Ejiofor’s running Solomon Northup — the primary visual in the American marketing campaign — is shoved into a lower corner. Another similar poster makes use of Michael Fassbender’s face in the same way as Pitt’s. (It would be even more difficult to conjure up a log-line for 12 Years that tells the story from his despicable character’s point of view.)
Major movie stars like Pitt are especially crucial to the selling of Hollywood movies in international markets, but the main character of Steve McQueen’s movie is undoubtedly Ejiofor’s Solomon, whose ordeal of being kidnapped and trafficked into Southern slavery is the sole heart-wrenching narrative. Fassbender plays one of Solomon’s cruel taskmasters, and Pitt, who produced the film, has an extremely minor — but crucial — role as a sympathetic Canadian carpenter who frowns upon the Southern system of slavery. Pitt might sell better than Ejiofor, but the poster’s misrepresentation is especially egregious considering the nature of the tale.
After the posters were noted by some bloggers, including Carefree Black Girl, Summit Entertainment told Variety that those posters were unauthorized and it planned to recall them immediately. “The 12 Years a Slave theatrical posters featuring Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender that were recently released in Italy were unauthorized and were not approved by any of the producers or licensors of the film,” the company said in a statement. “Summit Entertainment, acting as exclusive sales agent for the licensors, is investigating and taking immediate action to stop the distribution of any unauthorized posters and to have those posters currently in the marketplace recalled.”