September 26, 2020


The Director of Cuties on Whether She Would Do Any of It Differently (KOVIE BIAKOLO, SEPT 26, 2020, Slate)

Kovie Biakolo: Cuties premiered at Sundance in January, where it was warmly received and even won an award for your direction. Did you imagine at any point that once the film was set to premiere to a wider audience at Netflix that it would garner the sort of controversy that it has?

Maïmouna Doucouré: I of course had hoped that it would have prompted a debate on the hypersexualization of preadolescents. But never in my dreams had I imagined that my point of view would become so misinterpreted.

Are there any lessons here for yourself, given that Cuties is your first feature film, as well as perhaps other directors, specifically Black directors, regarding the differences between festival reception and wider release to the general public?

I was not under the impression that there would be a big difference between the presentation of the film at the Sundance Film Festival or festivals in general, because at Sundance, the audience was American, and they reacted like all other audiences in other countries. They understood what I was saying with my film, especially because of the subject. Of course the film is set in France and in Paris, but it is a universal subject that concerns all societies and all countries. I think that the most important thing to bear in mind is to be as honest as possible with one's view and opinion. You have to be very sincere. That's why I became a filmmaker--because I wanted to have a gaze on the world and hopefully change it for the better.

I think that what has happened [with regard to the backlash] depends on the fact that the reaction was triggered because somehow the message was delivered in the wrong way; they didn't get the message right. And most of the people who protest have not taken the time to watch the film from beginning to end.

One of the things that was clear to me is that you were depicting how early girls really start to be aware of their sexuality and what their body means in society, in addition to portraying how young girls are thus hypersexualized. Do you think, however, there were different directional choices you could have made, in some of the more explicit dancing scenes, for example, as well as other scenes?

My cinematic starting point in this film was to become myself as an 11-year-old again, and to make all of us take on her gaze--the 11-year-old little girl--in order for the audience and myself to try and experience that stage in life when you try to build your own identity in today's society. My choice was not to judge the kids, but also never to take on an adult gaze on them, so that I am able to understand the complexity of the feelings and emotions in the process of transformation that you experience at that age with the tools that our present society gives us. And what is quite obvious to me is that those girls [in the film] are not aware of the meaning of that kind of dance. In their own eyes, it is just a way to become more popular, to get more likes from social network, and to win the contest.

My aesthetic take, aesthetic perspective is to hold a mirror in front of the world so that we as adults are able to see what we have created, what is our responsibility towards our children, in the way we have brought them up.

Posted by at September 26, 2020 8:51 AM