Sapphires protest 'racist' cover

Bigotry battle: Original Sapphires Laurel Robinson, left, Naomi Mayers and Beverley Briggs.

Bigotry battle: Original Sapphires Laurel Robinson, left, Naomi Mayers and Beverley Briggs. Photo: Adam Hollingworth

The original Sapphires have reached across the globe to call on race rights advocates to boycott the US DVD version of the movie made about their lives.

The DVD, due for release in the US on Tuesday, carries a cover relegating the four star Aboriginal characters to the background, while Irish actor Chris O'Dowd - who plays their manager - is featured in the foreground.

The four women - Naomi Mayers, Beverly Briggs, Lois Peeler and Laurel Robinson - who inspired the award-winning film about battling racism and sexism in 1960s and '70s Australia have launched an angry broadside against the US distributor.

The US cover of <em>The Sapphires</em> DVD.

The US cover of The Sapphires DVD. Photo: Supplied

They have written to the powerful lobby group, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, asking for support.


''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 letter, written by the chairman of the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service on their behalf, reads.

''That trauma - and much of that treatment - remains alive and well in Australia today, as I know it does in the United States.

The Australian version.

The Australian version. Photo: Supplied

''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,'' Sol Bellear wrote. ''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.''

Naomi Mayers, who is the chief executive of the Redfern AMS, where Ms Briggs and Ms Robinson also work, said the DVD cover was disrespectful.

''What has upset us is that the DVD cover appears to miss that point [of the film] entirely,'' she said. ''It's disrespectful to the very talented young Aboriginal actors in the film, and it's disrespectful to us as a group.

''But in particular, it's disrespectful to women of colour everywhere who have stood up against this sort of thing all their lives,'' she said.

''We are very proud of our work with the Sapphires and we are proud of the film. We hope that the US distributors of the DVD stop and think about how their depiction of that work might be received, and that it motivates them to reconsider the cover artwork before the DVD is distributed.''

The US cover image has already prompted outcry on social media and commentators have labelled it racist. O'Dowd called it ''vile''.

The Sapphires, which won 11 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts awards, follows the story of four indigenous women - played by Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell - who form a music group and take their show to Vietnam to entertain the troops.