Netflix film 'Cuties' blocked by Turkey's media watchdog

Streaming of the French film has been blocked in the country on the grounds that it contains images of child exploitation

'Cuties' is centred around a young Senegalese migrant who joins a dance group in Paris. IMDb
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Turkey's broadcasting watchdog said it will order Netflix to block access locally to the soon-to-be-released French film Cuties on the grounds that it contains images of child exploitation.

The ruling came on Thursday ahead of the film's September 9 international release on the online streaming service.

The plot of Cuties centres on an 11-year-old Muslim girl who "starts to rebel against her conservative family's traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew," Netflix says.

After a board meeting, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) said: "It was decided unanimously that the broadcaster must remove the relevant programme from its catalogue."

A board report, in RTUK's first case related to a video-on-demand platform, judged that such a film, "containing exploitation and abuse, might lead to potential child exploitation behaviour patterns emerging".

Netflix, the world's biggest streaming service, which has more than 1.5 million subscribers in Turkey, has not yet commented on the decision.

Last Month, Turkey's Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services requested that the board evaluate the film over concerns about its impact, noting it appeared like a children's movie, but had an 18+ rating.

Cuties was previously criticised internationally over its promotional poster for allegedly sexualising 11-year-old girls. At the time, Netflix apologised for what it called "inappropriate artwork."

The film's director, French-Senegalese filmmaker Maimouna Doucoure, was also targeted and forced to delete her social media accounts.

(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
French-Senegalese film director Maimouna Doucoure was honoured at this year's Sundance Film Festival. AFP

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

Doucoure 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.”

A majority of the RTUK is made up of members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has Islamist roots, along with its nationalist allies.

If Netflix goes ahead with screening the film in Turkey, its licence could be temporarily suspended, Turkish media reports have said.

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

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."