‘Cuties’ Director Says She Received Death Threats Over Sexualized Netflix Poster

“I received numerous attacks on my character from people who had not seen the film,” Maïmouna Doucouré says

“Cuties” director Maïmouna Doucouré says she received death threats after an American poster released by Netflix for her film sexualized young girls, even though the poster wrongly characterized the actual content of the movie.

Doucouré told Deadline in an interview Thursday that she only saw the American poster for the movie after it had already made the rounds on social media. Netflix apologized publicly for the controversy last month, but Doucouré said she received a call from Ted Sarandos apologizing to her directly.

“I received numerous attacks on my character from people who had not seen the film, who thought I was actually making a film that was apologetic about hypersexualization of children,” she said, adding that she received “numerous” death threats. “We had several discussions back and forth after this happened. Netflix apologized publicly, and also personally to me.”

“Cuties” is a French-African film that made its debut at Sundance earlier this year and even won the Directing Award in the World Cinema dramatic category. It was critically acclaimed when it opened theatrically in France earlier this year.

However, the film got misconstrued when Netflix released an English-language poster showing the main characters, four young girls, striking suggestive poses in revealing dance outfits that showed bare midriffs and lots of skin. In comparison, the French poster for “Cuties” shows the girls playfully having fun as they run through the streets. People online referred to the poster, which you can view at the attached links, as “disgusting” and “f–ing gross.”

“Things happened fairly quickly because, after the delays, I was completely concentrating on the film’s release in France. I discovered the poster as the same time as the American public,” Doucouré told Deadline. “It was a strange experience. I hadn’t seen the poster until after I started getting all these reactions on social media, direct messages from people, attacks on me. I didn’t understand what was going on. That was when I went and saw what the poster looked like.”

“Cuties” is the story of an 11-year-old girl from Senegal who tries to escape family dysfunction by joining a free-spirited dance clique named “Cuties.” The group stands in stark contrast to her mother’s traditional values, and she soon becomes aware of her own femininity well beyond her years through dance.

Doucouré added that not only is “Cuties” being used as an educational tool in her home country in France, it addresses the pressures of social media on young women and that those who have judged the film based on its unfortunate cover will eventually see it.

“Hopefully they will understand that we’re actually on the same side of this battle. If we join forces, we could make a big change in this world that hypersexualizes children,” she said. “Love and self-esteem are constructed through likes and followers. What happens is young girls see images of women being objectified, and the more the woman becomes an object the more followers and likes she has – they see that as a role model and try to imitate these women, but they’re not old enough to know what they’re doing.”