Famed Disney-owned animation studio Pixar is taking heat in Europe for using a white cast to dub the voices of its black characters in its new black culture focused movie, Soul.
When it was initially released in Denmark, Soul was celebrated for its depiction of a black jazz musician who goes on a joyful life journey — voiced by Jamie Foxx in the American release. But it wasn’t long before the same media that praised the film began hammering it because the cast hired to translate the American film into Danish lacked black actors, the blog Film reported.
Nikolaj Lie Kaas, the white actor who was hired for Soul’s Danish release, felt enough pressure to jump to his Facebook account to put out a statement saying that he thinks that the actor “who can perform the work in the best possible way [should] get the job.”
Denmark was not alone. In Portugal, critics also discovered that not many actors of color were used to translate the film into Portuguese. The realization resulted in a petition that earned more than 17,000 signatures to have the movie re-dubbed using actors of color.
Indeed, it appears that white actors were used to dub the voices of the black characters in a large number of European releases. One of the few exceptions is in France, where a black actor was chosen to dub the lead black character’s voice in the film.
Some dubbing studios and directors in Europe say that they don’t focus on race because their job is to try and approximate the original character’s sound, not fill a racial quota.
“The best dubbing should pass by completely undetected,” Juan Logar, a leading Spanish dubbing director and voice actor, told the New York Times. “My job is to find the voice that best matches the original. Black, white, Asian, it doesn’t matter.”
Still, many minority actors in Europe have chimed in on the Soul debate and noted that they face a lot of subtle discrimination in the film dubbing industry.
German actor Kaze Uzumaki, who is black, told the Times that he is often told he sounds too educated when doing black characters and is seldom hired to voice a white character.
“They don’t even realize that they’re being racist,” Uzumaki said. “But every time a director says something like, ‘No, you sound too polished; you know how they talk, right?’ I feel like I’ve been hit with a stick in the face.”
Ivo Chundro, a black actor in the Netherlands, agrees. “Directors will only cast white actors for white parts and tell actors of color, ‘No, your voice isn’t white enough,'” Chundro noted.
These actors, though, also insisted that change is in motion and the climate is not as bad as it once was. And the discussion over Soul has been a big part of that progress.
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