Toronto: 'Cuties’ Director Says Netflix Film Not Hyper-Sexualizing Young Girls: "It's a Real Issue"

Cuties - Sundance - World DRAMA - Publicity - H 2020
Courtesy of Sundance

"I decided to make this film and sound an alarm," Maïmouna Doucouré told a TIFF panel Monday.

Cuties (Mignonnes) director Maïmouna Doucoure has defended her French indie film on Netflix from accusations that it hyper-sexualizes prepubescent girls, as she argued her directorial debut aimed at social commentary and change.

"It's because I saw so many things and so many issues around me lived by young girls, that I decided to make this film and sound an alarm and say, 'We need to protect our children,'" Doucouré told a TIFF panel on French filmmakers Monday.

In Doucouré's feature debut Cuties, a preteen girl leaves her Senegalese family background to fit in by joining a group of precociously sexualized dancers as tradition and teenage rebellion collide.

"It's bold, its feminist, but it's so important and necessary to create debate and try to find solutions, for me as an artist, for politicians and parents. It's a real issue," the director argued. Doucoure also defended Cuties for allowing Black and Brown people to see themselves on the big screen.

"It's important to see someone like you on the screen, and to grow up with a lot of possibilities. So, of course, diversity and inclusion have to be the keys to progress in our cinema," she argued.

Also Monday, Netflix in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter defended Cuties as "a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. It's an award winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up - and we'd encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie."

Cuties was picked up Netflix after its Sundance premiere, and the streaming giant had to apologize for a marketing campaign and its promo materials in August. "We're deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties. It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description," the streamer said via its Twitter account.

More recently, the Sept. 9 release of Cuties on Netflix sparked another backlash from U.S. Conservative media and politicians such as Sen. Ted Cruz.

"The video streaming service and content-producer Netflix is currently hosting a film entitled 'Cuties' that sexualizes young girls, including through dance scenes that simulate sexual activities and a scene exposing a minor’s bare breast," Cruz wrote in a Sept. 11 letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr that urged the Department of Justice to investigate the production and distribution of the Netflix film.