The Director in the Middle of the #CancelNetflix Backlash Speaks Out
‘Cuties’ filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré talks about the poster controversy and the global sexualization of our girls
Aside from rare examples like Crooklyn, Eve’s Bayou, and Beasts of a Southern Wild, Hollywood has dismissed the young Black female experience. But with her feature film debut, Cuties, French Senegalese filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré is putting the spotlight on Black girls while helping them reclaim their girlhood.
Doucouré won a distinguished directing award for Cuties when the film debuted at Sundance in January, but months later, she found herself in the middle of a media firestorm after Netflix released a shocking poster for its English-speaking audience. The poster showed a sexualized image of young girls that stood apart from the film’s religious versus secular context and nuance. Though Netflix has apologized for its failure, Doucouré has been the recipient of numerous death threats and personal attacks.
In recent days, the hashtag #CancelNetflix has trended in response. Some viewers find the film to sexualize young girls. Others point out that the film is the unfortunate victim of a poor marketing campaign and that critics took the poster out of context.
Set in present-day Paris, Cuties follows 11-year-old Amy (Fathia Youssouf), a recent transplant from Senegal who becomes increasingly enamored with her classmate Angelica (Médina El Aidi-Azouni), the queen bee of a group of schoolgirls who call themselves the Cuties. With her mother preoccupied by the devastating news that her husband has taken a second wife, Amy desperately throws herself into becoming a Cutie, even taking part in a dance competition with Angelica and her friends. Like most girls new to town, she just wants to belong.
Amid the film’s Netflix debut and the swirling social media scandal, Doucouré spoke with ZORA about Cuties, standing in her truth, and why this story is so important for her.
ZORA: What prompted you to write Cuties?
Maïmouna Doucouré: I was at a neighborhood gathering in Paris. A group of very young girls came on the stage to dance, and they were dancing in a very sexually revealing way. I decided to do research…