Netflix has issued a statement apologizing for the marketing around its upcoming original film "Cuties," directed by French filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré. The movie world premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award and earned Doucouré a spot on IndieWire's annual list of rising women directors to know. Netflix received backlash over the film after it debuted a poster for the film August 18 that many believed sexualized children.
"We're deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties," a Netflix spokesperson said. "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."
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"Cuties" stars newcomer Fathia Youssouf as Amy, an 11-year-old girl who befriends a group of dancers at her school and begins growing into her burgeoning femininity. Amy's coming of age experience with her new friends upsets her mother as it is in direct confrontation with the family's Senegalese Muslim traditions.
Netflix's poster for "Cuties" featured the young girls that appear in the film striking suggestive dance poses such as twerking while dressed in tight and revealing group outfits. Netflix's marketing led to a Change.org petition urging the streaming giant to remove the title from its upcoming slate. The petition for Netflix to cancel "Cuties" has earned over 35,000 signatures and counting.
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"This movie is disgusting as it sexualizes an 11 year old for the viewing pleasure of pedophiles and also negatively influences our children," the petition reads. "There is no need for this kind of content in that age group, especially when sex trafficking and pedophilia are so rampant! There is no excuse, this is dangerous content."
The inappropriate marketing for "Cuties" stands in contrast to the film itself, which has been largely praised by film critics for handling Amy's coming-of-age experience with sensitivity. Doucouré uses her "Cuties" storyline to openly criticize the ways in which society puts pressure on young girls to be overtly sexual.
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As IndieWire's Kate Erbland noted in her "Cuties" review out of Sundance, "The girls are preparing to enter a dance contest, and an appearance by their great rivals (the Sweety-Swaggs) lays out what's to come: The Swaggs are older, more developed, more sexualized, and their moves reflect that. The Cuties certainly don't understand that even the elder Swaggs are at the mercy of a hyper-sexualized culture and its demands, and that there's something deeply wrong with a teenager taking her top off in the middle of dance video."
"Cuties" is set to begin streaming September 9 on Netflix.