12/27/2013 01:01 pm ET

Backlash Over '12 Years A Slave' Posters With White Actors Ends With Apology

An Italian distributor has apologized for "12 Years A Slave" posters featuring enlarged images of white actors alongside a small image of the film's black star.

Photos of the Italian posters spread on social networks earlier this week. The ads showed white actors like Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender featured prominently in the artwork, while the star, black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, was featured secondarily in a lower corner. Although Ejifor has already received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Solomon Northup, a freeman kidnapped and forced into slavery in the 1800s, Pitt -- who is credited as a producer -- only has a small role in the flick.

Many criticized the juxtaposition.

BIM Distribuzine, the Italian distributor of the film, has recalled the posters ahead of Italy's February release of "12 Years A Slave" and issued an apology Thursday, according to TheWrap.

“We apologize for creating and releasing unauthorized posters for ’12 Years A Slave’ in Italy featuring Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in a manner inconsistent with approved advertising materials," BIM Distribuzine said. "All inappropriate materials have now been withdrawn. We are very proud of the film and regret any distraction this incident may have caused.”

Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment was behind the international marketing of the film and issued its own response to Variety earlier in the week. The company said the ads were "unauthorized and were not approved by any of the producers or licensors of the film."

"12 Years A Slave," which hit theaters in the United States in November, will be released in Italy Feb. 20.