'Cuties' director Maimouna Doucoure received death threats after backlash over Netflix poster

The streaming platform's co-chief executive personally called the French-Senegalese filmmaker to apologise

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 24, 2020 French-Senegalese film director Maimouna Doucoure poses during a photo session in Paris. "Mignonnes" (Cuties), the first film by Maimouna Doucoure is released in cinemas on August 19, 2020. / AFP / Christophe ARCHAMBAULT
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Netflix's co-chief executive made a personal call to the director of Cuties after the streaming platform bungled marketing for the French drama.

Ted Sarandos made a personal apology to Maimouna Doucoure, the French-Senegalese filmmaker revealed this week, after Netflix used “inappropriate” artwork and language to promote the film.

The streaming platform came under fire last month after releasing a poster showing a group of young girls in risque dance poses, wearing minimalist costumes, to advertise Cuties.

The film, known as Mignonnes in France, follows an 11-year-old Senegalese Muslim girl, Amy, who joins a dance group – named the Cuties – in Paris. The film is centred around Amy's struggle to balance her family's conservative outlook with her desire to join her friends.

While Netflix made a public apology after the artwork sparked backlash, Doucoure herself was also targeted and forced to delete her social media accounts.

"I received numerous attacks on my character from people who had not seen the film," she told Deadline this week. "I also received numerous death threats."

The director says she was unaware of Netflix's marketing before it debuted online, and admits it was not representative of her film.

"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.”

The artwork used by Netflix sparked controversy due to its depictions of the film's young cast, with a petition launched that demanded the drama's removal from the platform. Others criticised the streaming company's decision to use the artwork, while the French poster for the film depicted the cast laden with shopping bags.

The film, which is due to be released on the streaming platform on Wednesday, September 9, is the debut feature from Doucoure.

'Cuties' is centred around a young Senegalese migrant who joins a dance group in Paris. IMDb
'Cuties' is centred around a young Senegalese migrant who joins a dance group in Paris. IMDb

Though shocked by the controversy, the filmmaker added that she had been inundated with messages of support and is still magnanimous about the streaming platform.

"Streamers are a great way to get my stories out and share my messages with more people," she added.

The French filmmaker won the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award at January's Sundance Film Festival for Cuties, which stars 14-year-old Fathia Youssouf in the lead role.

The main message of the film is that these young girls should have the time to be children

Doucoure has revealed she penned the film to highlight the sexualisation of young girls, particularly on social media.

"I wrote this film after I spent a year and a half interviewing pre-adolescent girls, trying to understand their notion of what femininity was, and how social media was affecting this idea," she told Deadline.

“The main message of the film is that these young girls should have the time to be children, to enjoy their childhood, and have the time to choose who they want to be when they are adults."