Despite receiving an award at the Sundance Film Festival, Cuties has outraged many viewers and commentators. The French movie depicts an 11-year-old girl who joins a dance group that has some less than age-appropriate moves.
The film itself has caused many to voice outrage at Netflix for allowing a film that hyper-sexualized young girls, but the director and writer for the film say that was exactly the point of it, and it's a conversation we need to be having.
Cuties director responds to backlash
Maïmouna Doucouré, Cuties director and creator, announced during the Toronto International Film Festival why she produced such a controversial film, and despite the backlash, is glad she made it.
The story is that of a young immigrant girl who grows up in a strict Muslim household, and gets bullied by girls who are involved in a dance group. When she gets her hands on a cell-phone, she discovers dance moves that are highly inappropriate for her age group and shares them with the girls who then allow her to join their group.
Doucouré says that is was a slight representation of her own upbringing, being an immigrant to France herself, and argued the film was a way for her to shed light on how young girls are often treated.
"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,'" she said on the panel, according to People.
"It's bold, it's 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," she added, saying that this issue is "very real."
Netflix has stood by the film despite the backlash, saying to THR the film is "a social commentary against the sexualization of young children."
The streaming service added, "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."
Netflix advertised the film ahead of its release with a poster of the young girls wearing very tight, revealing clothing with highly suggestive poses.
Posting a public apology on Twitter, Netflix said, "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."
Despite being highly criticized by the public, the film itself has received praise from film critics for the handling of such a sensitive topic.
Film critic Monica Castillo gave the film 5 stars on her RogerEbert.com review, applauding Doucouré for her openly critical perspective on societal norms towards little girls.
"The movie is so much more nuanced and bold than the first wave of outrage charged," Castillo wrote. "With Cuties, Doucouré announces herself as a director with a keen visual style who’s unafraid to explore these cultural and social tensions."
Cuties is still streaming on Netflix.