THE director of Netflix's controversial film Cuties has responded to critics, defending her film as a "feminist" piece of "social commentary" about how young girls are treated in modern society
Speaking on a panel of French film makers at the Toronto Film Festival, Director Maïmouna Doucouré defended her film against claims by lawmakers that it sexualizes young girl and promotes pedophilia.
"'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," Doucouré said of topics explored the film. "It's a real issue."
She also said the film was meant to "sound the alarm" about how underage girls are treated in modern times.
Doucouré's debut film has garnered much attention and has led to widespread calls to #CancelNetflix for airing it. Several lawmakers have even sought legal action because of the content of the film.
The film tells the story of 11-year-old Amy, who was raised in a traditional Senegalese Muslim household. She decides to join a "twerking squad" at her school, and the story follows the crew as they compete in a dance competition.
The film had been critiqued for what many are calling inappropriate dance scenes with pre-teen girls wearing short-shorts and crop tops.
In a segment that accompanies the Netflix film, Doucouré said that she spoke with hundreds of pre-teens before making the movie to get an idea of the social pressures young girls are facing these days.
"Our girls see that the more a woman is sexualized on social media, the more she is successful," she said. "And yea, it's dangerous."
Among the film's many critics are lawmakers Sen Tom Cottom (R-Ark), Rep Jim Banks (R-Ind), Rep Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Several have called for the Department of Justice to launch an investigation.
In a letter addressed to Attorney General William Barr, Cruz said the film "sexualizes" young girls, showcases "dance scenes that simulate sexual activities," and features "partial child nudity" which at one point exposes "a minor's bare breast."
Cruz's claim about underage nudity is reportedly untrue, and may have been based on an initial IMDB report that claimed the film featured nudity, according to Forbes.
However, the senator's office is still asking that the film be investigated to see if any child pornography laws were violated.
Cruz's office went on the claim that the footage could be used by pedophiles "in abusive ways."
The movie first began receiving backlash when Netflix released artwork to promote it that featured the pre-teen girls in skimpy outfits posing in a suggestive manner.
That artwork was not used to promote the film in France, where it was originally released, and the director said she had no idea Netflix planned to use that imagery to promote it in the US.
Netflix later issued an apology for the poster, and a trailer that may have misrepresented the intended message of the film.
"We're deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used to promote Cuties," a spokesperson said. "It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film, which premiered at Sundance."
"We've now updated the pictures and description."
Doucouré said that she also received a personal apology from the company, however, she had already began receiving major backlash after the poster was released.
The director told Deadline that she had received numerous death threats from people who believe the film was promoting the sexualization of children.
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