Ted Sarandos Defends Controversial ‘Cuties’ Movie as "Misunderstood"

Cuties
Courtesy of Sundance

'Cuties'

"Frankly, I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion about the First Amendment implications of this film," the Netflix co-CEO told a virtual MIPCOM keynote.

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has brushed off a Texas grand jury indictment of Cuties (Mignonnes), French director Maïmouna Doucouré's indie film that has generated controversy on the streaming platform for its depiction of prepubescent girls.

"Frankly, I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion about the First Amendment implications of this film. It's a film I would argue is very misunderstood with some audiences, uniquely in the United States," Sarandos told a MIPCOM Online+ keynote address on Monday.

Cuties, helmed by Doucouré in her feature directorial debut, is a coming-of-age story about an 11-year-old girl from a traditional Muslim Senegalese family who tries to fit in by joining a group of young dancers who carry out sexualized routines and post them online.

But according to the Tyler County, Texas grand jury indictment, Netflix is accused of promoting "visual material which depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 years of age at the time the visual material was created, which appeals to the prurient interest in sex and has no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."

The film has also become caught up in pre-election rhetoric in the U.S., with several members of Congress calling on the French-language title to be removed from Netflix's catalog.

Sarandos, responding to the controversy around the movie, defended it as an auteur coming-of-age film. "It’s the director’s story and the film has obviously played very well at Sundance, without any of this kind of controversy and played in theaters throughout Europe without any of this controversy," he argued.

"I think it’s a little surprising that in 2020 in America, we’re having a discussion about censoring storytelling," Sarandos added.

The Netflix chief said the streamer never considered making edits or limiting access to Doucouré's feature debut.