The National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) has issued a statement on the recent indictment of Netflix in Texas on behalf of the French film Cuties from director Maïmouna Doucouré, which caused a controversy after the US marketing of the film appeared to misrepresent the film itself and its message.
The film premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival with mixed to good reviews then on the streamer September 9 where it sits at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Once the film was released, RT voters – who are not required to see a film in order to rate it once it’s released – tanked its audience rating, where it currently sits at 15%.
Conspiracy theorist groups like QAnon condemned the film without seeing it, claiming it was promoting everything from child pornography to pedophilia. It was quickly picked up by Republican senators like Ted Cruz (Texas), also sight unseen, in an attempt to distract from his and the current president’s political failings with an empty attack on Hollywood that will end up costing Texas taxpayers money.
Here is the statement from the NSFC:
The members of the National Film Critics Society wish to condemn the recent action taken by the District Attorney in Tyler County, Texas, with respect to the grand jury indictment of Netflix for “promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child.” This indictment, which is utterly baseless, is an example of political grandstanding related to the French film Cuties (Mignonnes), by award-winning writer-director Maïmouna Doucouré.
The indictment states that Cuties has “no literary, artistic, political, or scientific value,” which is legalese for pornography. This charge is absurd on its face. Cuties, which focuses on the experiences of a young Senegalese girl living in France, is a feminist examination of the oppressive roles available to young girls in the modern world. The protagonist, Amy, is torn between a restrictive, traditional Muslim family that demands supplication from women, and a clique of prepubescent dancers, anxious to replicate the hyper-sexualized behavior they see in YouTube videos and club culture.
Doucouré’s point could hardly be clearer. Young girls in contemporary culture are treated as objects of lust on the one hand, and denied their own sexuality on the other. The grand jury indictment, ironically, replicates the exact conditions that Cuties aims to criticize. By calling the film smut because of how someone might hypothetically watch it, the Tyler County D.A. insists that a frank consideration of girls’ sexuality is, in itself, dirty.
More significantly, we of the NSFC believe that indictments such as this, which are ultimately publicity stunts, could nevertheless have a chilling effect on free expression in the United States. For this reason, we feel it necessary to register our condemnation.