More than five years after it was first announced, Adelaide-born pop superstar Sia will see her directorial debut Music hit cinemas, with her forthcoming feature film officially set to be released in cinemas on January 7th.
The news comes days after Sia was caught up in an online controversy surrounding her use of a non-autistic actress in the title role.
The film sees frequent Sia collaborator Maddie Ziegler portraying the nonverbal autistic character of Music, who is put under the care of her newly sober sister Zu (Kate Hudson) following the death of their grandmother. While not a musical in the purest sense, the film also features segments which see the title character interpreting events happening around her by way of musical interludes, as seen in the film clip to lead single “Together”.
When the trailer was released late last week, users on Twitter were quick to hit back at the artist, with one noting that it’s “a mighty shame that someone with such a colossal platform is using it to exclude disabled and neuro diverse actors from their own narratives”.
While Sia defended her choice, stating that she had indeed tried working with “a beautiful young girl non verbal on the spectrum”, but claimed that the actor found the experience “unpleasant and stressful”.
Despite the criticism, Sia told Rolling Stone earlier in the year that she had taken steps to not only protect Ziegler from any negative attention for her portrayal, but to ensure the role was performed respectfully.
“Nobody recognised [Ziegler] because she is doing such a stunning job of capturing what it is to be quite low functioning on the autism spectrum,” she explained. “I used to go to AA meetings and the sign language interpreter had a son called Stevie and I based her character exactly on him.”
“We sent it to the Child Mind Institute in New York and they watched it,” she added. “A whole bunch of people with autism watched it, a whole bunch of people who are caregivers, or people that are studiers of the brain – students of the brain – and they gave her 100% [approval].”
Sia’s Music will be officially released on January 7th, 2021 via Studiocanal.