Netflix has removed a picture and description used to promote a film about a schoolgirl dance troupe after complaints that it was sexualising children.
Cuties, or Mignonnes as it is titled in French, is a comedy drama about an 11-year-old girl who finds escape by dancing with a group of friends.
The film, which is directed by French-Senegalese director Maimouna Doucoure, won the Sundance’s Global Filmmaking Award in 2017 and their Directing Jury Award this year.
The original thumbnail used by Netflix to advertise the film showed the four child dancers pouting to the camera in light summer clothes.
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 (@netflix) August 20, 2020
The movie is now showing in French cinemas and is due be streamed on Netflix from next month.
Netflix apologised for their presentation of the film via a post on Twitter, 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.”
The original description read: “Amy, 11 years old, tries to escape family dysfunction by joining a free-spirited dance clique named Cuties, as they become aware of their own femininity through dance.”
It has now been amended to: “Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.”
The new image shows a large group of school children in a playground re-enacting the mannequin challenge (a viral internet video trend that surfaced in 2016).
It is Doucoure’s first feature, and she has previously said it was partly inspired by some of her own experience as a young refugee in France, and her struggles to balance the two different cultures in her life.
Earlier this month she told European film website CineEuropa the light-bulb moment for the film came from a neighbourhood party where she saw a group of 11-year-old girls dancing in a “sensual” way in “revealing clothes”.
She said: “I was rather shocked, and I wondered if they were aware of the image of sexual availability that they were projecting.”
She went on to interview girls over a period of a year-and-a-half as research for the film.
The 35-year-old director went on to say she believed social media plays a large part in the girls’ presentation of themselves.
“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.”
She concluded: “I think it is urgent that we talk about it, that a debate be had on the subject.”
Two separate petitions created on change.org calling for Netflix to cancel its screening of the film have received over 400,000 signatures between them over the last two days.
Following the backlash over the film, Doucoure appears to have deleted her Twitter account.
Last year the 35-year-old director won the inaugural Academy Gold Fellowship Award for Women, which was given out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Academy, who is behind the Oscars, ia also understood to have given Doucoure a $22,000 (£16,600) grant to help with the film’s completion.