Cuties Real Story: Is the Controversial Netflix Film True or Fake?

cuties real

Getty The Cuties director.

Cuties, the new Netflix film on a group of tween dancers, is causing controversy by those who argue the twerking girls are being sexualized. Outrage erupted, in particular, over Netflix’s promotional materials showcasing the girls.

That has a lot of people wondering whether Cuties is a real story? Is the Netflix film true or false?

The film is fiction, but it is drawn from the real-life experiences of the director and girls she actually interviewed. According to Time Magazine, Maïmouna Doucouré, its director, drew on her “personal experiences” when creating it. “For me, this film is sounding an alarm,” she told Time. “This film tries to show that our children should have the time to be children, and we as adults should protect their innocence and keep them innocent as long as possible.”

Some people don’t have a problem with the director when they learn more about her intentions and back story. However, the contrast between the Netflix promotional poster and the French version is generating outcry:

The movie’s protagonist is 11-year-old Amy, a Senegalese Muslim girl “growing up in a poor neighborhood in Paris,” who joins a local dance group that contrasts with her “conservative home life,” according to Time. A petition drive is urging Netflix to cancel the movie.

Doucoure, who is also French and Sengalese, sees some of herself in Amy, telling Time, “I was trying to recreate the little girl who I was at that age, giving her a voice, and looking at what it means to become a woman.”

Here’s what you need to know:

The Director Sees the Character of Amy as Her ‘Alter Ego’ & Interviewed Real Girl Dancers

Why I Made Cuties | Maïmouna Doucouré Interview | NetflixWriter-director Maïmouna Doucouré on her film CUTIES and how it draws from her own experience growing up between two cultures. Subscribe: Find Netflix Film Club on: ➡️INSTAGRAM: ➡️TWITTER: About Netflix: Netflix is the world's leading streaming entertainment service with 193 million paid memberships in over 190 countries enjoying TV series, documentaries and…2020-09-09T07:00:00Z

According to Decider, the girls in the movie are actors. However, the character of Amy is the director’s “alter ego.”

Doucouré shares things in common with Amy; she grew up in a polygamous family, describing her childhood as “beautiful” and not “boring,” according to Shadow and Act.

She told the site: “The main character of Amy is my alter ego. She’s based on my story. Just like Amy, I had questions about my femininity because I was growing up in two cultures, my parents’ Senegalese culture, and then the French culture. So I had all of these questions also about how to become a woman.”

In addition, the director did draw inspiration from a real group of dancing girls.

“My first inspiration [for the film] was, during a neighborhood gathering in Paris, I saw a group of very young girls who came and danced on the stage and they were dancing in a very sexual way like we were used to seeing in [social media] video clips,” she told Shadow and Act. The director also told Shadow and Act that she based the movie's narratives on real-life girls, saying, "All of the stories that you see in the film are based on the stories that [were] told [to] me and I realized that these girls were learning to construct themselves and their version of femininity based on what they saw in social media. I realized that these girls were growing up with a vision that was objectifying women and that they were growing up with this idea of a woman being an object and a woman's worth and value being based on the number of likes that they received." She explained further to Cineuropa:

The day I saw, at a neighbourhood party, a group of young girls aged around 11 years old, going up on stage and dancing in a very sensual way while wearing very revealing clothes. 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. But I needed the 2020 version of that youth, so for a year and a half, I stopped groups of young girls in the street, sometimes in schools or when organisations opened their doors to me. 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.

Cuties was first released in France, where it was called Mignonnes. First Post says that the director’s “own dual cultural identity” is at the film’s heart.

“And this intrigued me, so I decided to spend the next year and a half during doing research. And I met over a hundred young girls and listened to their stories,” she told the Shadow and Act site. “I wanted to know how they, how they were constructing their own femininity in today’s society and how they were doing with their self-image at a time when social media is so important. I wanted to listen to their stories and that’s how I came up with the idea.”

Netflix Has Apologized for Its Choice of Promotional Materials

Netflix issued an apology on Twitter for its promotional poster, writing, “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.”

Actress Tessa Thompson defended the movie, saying it mines Doucoure’s experiences. “#CUTIES is a beautiful film. It gutted me at @sundancefest,” she wrote on Twitter. It introduces a fresh voice at the helm. She’s a French Senegalese Black woman mining her experiences. The film comments on the hyper-sexualization of preadolescent girls. Disappointed to see the current discourse.”

She later updated her post to criticize the Netflix marketing campaign, writing, “Disappointed to see how it was positioned in terms of marketing. I understand the response of everybody. But it doesn’t speak to the film I saw.”

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