Maimouna Doucoure, ‘Cuties’ Director: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Maimouna Doucoure

Getty Maimouna Doucoure speaks onstage during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival Awards Night Ceremony at Basin Recreation Field House on February 01, 2020 in Park City, Utah.

Maimouna Doucoure is an award-winning director known best for the French coming-of-age film, “Cuties.” The film sparked controversy and a widely circulated petition as it was scheduled for streaming on Netflix. Netflix apologized and changed their poster and film description.

The film is about an 11-year-old girl who joins a dance crew. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and won a jury award for directing. The film is scheduled for streaming on Netflix September 9. It was originally called “Mignonnes.”

“Cuties” Director, Doucoure found herself amid the backlash for the film, which was highly regarded at the film festival. She said the film was based on her own experiences and those of modern pre-teens.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. ‘Cuties’ Director Maimouna Doucoure Said ‘Cuties’ Was Driven by her Own Experiences as a Child & Those of Modern Pre-Teen Girls

Maimouna Doucoure first got the idea for “Cuties” when she was at a neighborhood party, and saw girls around 11 years old wearing revealing clothing and dancing in a sensual way. She was shocked by the display, and it made her reflect on her own experiences growing up, she told Cineuropa.

“I was rather shocked and I wondered if they were aware of the image of sexual availability that they were projecting. In the audience, there were also more traditional mothers, some of them wearing veils: it was a real culture shock. I was stunned and I thought back to my own childhood, because I’ve often asked myself questions about my own femininity, about evolving between two cultures, about my Senegalese culture which comes from my parents and my western culture,” she said.

She further said she was careful not to judge the characters in ‘Cuties,’ saying, “this is not a health and safety ad.”

“This is most of all an uncompromising portrait of an 11-year-old girl plunged in a world that imposes a series of dictates on her. It was very important not to judge these girls, but most of all to understand them, to listen to them, to give them a voice, to take into account the complexity of what they’re living through in society, and all of that in parallel with their childhood which is always there, their imaginary, their innocence,” she said.


2. Maimouna Doucoure Delivered a Powerful Acceptance Speech About Women & Film at Sundance

Maïmouna Doucouré's powerful speech at SUNDANCE! DIRECTING AWARD for "Cuties"Maimouna Doucouré's powerful speech at the Ceremony of SUNDANCE FESTIVAL 2020 for the Directing Award : World Cinema Dramatic / "Cuties" / France Director and screenwriter – Maïmouna Doucouré Producer: Zangro – Bien ou Bien productions Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/bienoubienproductions/ Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/bienoubienprod/ Twitter : https://twitter.com/BienouBien_Prod2020-02-05T16:32:20Z

When Maimouna Doucoure was awarded with the Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival for “Cuties,” she took the opportunity to deliver a powerful message to women. You can watch her speech in full above or here.

When she presented her first short film at the film festivals, a critic said he did not believe she had actually made the film, asking her producer, “You made it for her, didn’t you?” She said she asked her producer who the man was.

“He didn’t want to tell me, so, lucky guy,” Doucoure said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

“I want to say to this guy and everyone who thinks that femininity means you don’t have the power to think, to write, lead and create, women are capable of doing everything,” she said.

“I want to say that I’m hear today more feminine than ever,” she continued. “You become what you believe. Ladies, just believe and you will become.”


3. Maimouna Doucoure Interviewed Pre-Teens About Their Experiences for ‘Cuties’ & Said Social Media Is Harmful to Youth

Interviews with the director of Cuties Maimouna Doucoure at the Sundance Film Festival 2020.Reporter James Nelson interviews the director of Cuties Maimouna Doucoure at the Sundance Film Festival 2020. http://www.Filmfestivals.com NON STOP FILM FESTIVALS The place to be for the film festival circuit fans!2020-02-02T21:54:08Z

Maimouna Doucoure interviewed pre-teens as she developed the idea for “Cuties,” drawing both from their stories and her own experiences growing up, she told Cineuropa. For 1 1/2 years, she spoke with young girls, stopping them on the street and interviewing them with the permission of their parents, or visiting organizations who opened their doors to her.

“I recorded them or filmed them when I had their parents’ authorisation, and I gathered their stories to find out where they situated themselves as children, as girls, as future women; how they placed themselves in society with their girlfriends, their families, at school, with social networks. All these stories fed into the writing of ‘Cuties,'” she said.

Through her interviews, she discovered the harm caused by social media on pre-teens, who sometimes gain thousands of followers on social media with provocative pictures, without fully understanding the images they are sharing. It was a major difference between society when Doucoure was growing up and youth today, and she said the topic should be debated.

“During my research, I saw that all these young girls I’d met were very exposed on social media. And with new social codes, the ways of presenting yourself change. I saw that some very young girls were followed by 400,000 people on social media and I tried to understand why. There were no particular reasons, besides the fact that they had posted sexy or at least revealing pictures: that is what had brought them this “fame.” Today, the sexier and the more objectified a woman is, the more value she has in the eyes of social media. And when you’re 11, you don’t really understand all these mechanisms, but you tend to mimic, to do the same thing as others in order to get a similar result. I think it is urgent that we talk about it, that a debate be had on the subject,” she told Cineuropa.


4. ‘Cuties’ Drew a Controversy After It Was Scheduled for Release on Netflix

A petition and public outcry began over cuties after people saw the poster and film description and questioned whether a TV-MA film was sexualizing children. Netflix issued an apology in response to the controversy, and changed the poster for the movie and its film description. They have announced no plans to cancel the TV-MA-rated movie.

“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. We’ve now updated the pictures and description,” Netflix said in a statement.

The original poster used to promote the movie on Netflix showed young girls in provocative poses and costumes. People on social media called the poster “disgusting,” “upsetting” and “sick.” The film is set to debut globally on Netflix September 9.

The original description said, “Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity…”

A response to the apology was published in an update on the petition.

“The problem is they are ELEVEN,” the update said. “This problem isn’t the artwork. It’s the fact it’s about twerking 11 year olds for adult viewing pleasure.”

The petition described the film as “dangerous content” which sexualizes pre-teens and serves as a bad influence to children.

“This movie/show is disgusting as it sexualizes an ELEVEN year old for the viewing pleasure of pedophiles and also negatively influences our children! 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 petition said.

Doucoure discussed the message of the film in a video.

“It’s a film about how to become a woman in our society,” she said. “It’s a story about Amy, an 11-year-old little girl, who meets a groups of dancers called ‘Cuties,'” she said.

Amy wants to join the group to escape family dysfunction, she said.


5. Maimouna Doucoure’s Short Film, ‘Maman(s),’ Calls on Her Own Experiences as a Child Facing Polygamy

MAMAN(S) Trailer | Festival 2015The family of eight-year-old Aida is thrown into chaos when her father returns from Senegal with young Rama, whom he introduces as his second wife. Aida may not exactly understand the details, but she understands that her mother is in deep distress, and that there seems to be but one way to make things better…2015-08-31T18:08:12Z

“Cuties” was Maimouna Doucoure’s first full-length feature film, but it was not the first time she won awards at the Sundance Film Festival. “Maman(s)” or “Mama(s)” won a Short Film Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. The 21-minute film was inspired by her personal experiences. The story focuses on “the upheaval of a child confronted with polygamy,” according to the Sundance Institute.

“Life is disrupted for eight-year-old Aida when her father returns with a young Senegalese woman, Rama, whom he introduces as his second wife. Sensitive to her mother’s distress, Aida decides to get rid of the new visitor,” the short film’s description says.

Her her first self-produced short film was “Hide-and-seek” in 2013.