Cuties (Mignonnes) is an award-winning French film written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré.
It tells the story of an 11-year-old Muslim girl who just moved with her family to France from Senegal. At her new school, she observes an energetic group of girls dancing. Eager to fit in, Amy makes friends with them and quickly learns their modest dance moves. They want to enter a dance competition and Amy is convinced that adding provocative choreography like the kind she has seen in music videos will help them win.
You may have heard about the recent backlash on social media with thousands of people urging others to join them in canceling their Netflix subscriptions because of the film’s content.
Suddenly, everyone was calling the film pornographic due to scenes with sexually suggestive dance moves (“twerking”). They were worried that the movie, rated TV-MA for mature audiences, would attract pedophiles.
Many others took offense at the film’s promotional posters.
While the poster for Mignonnes (the name of the film in the original French version) shows 11-year-old girls laughing and smiling after an apparent shopping spree, the poster for Cuties features the same 11-year-old girls posing suggestively and wearing revealing clothing.
No need to cancel your Netflix subscription over this film. Don’t judge a film by its promotional poster.
The way I see it, the film does not endorse the behavior; it’s only a small part of the bigger story of how we try to shape our identities in order to fit in.
The suggestive dancing scenes are brief – no more than a total of 3 minutes throughout the entire film, which has a running time of 96 minutes.
The provocative dancing by young girls is one thing. But I’m more troubled by other things in the film. For instance, there are depictions of child neglect, gun violence, playing dead, physical violence (hitting, pushing, slapping), bullying, body shaming, bulimia, voyeurism, catfishing, stealing, and lying.
I wasn’t expecting any of those things, but I’m glad I decided to watch the contentious film anyway. I’m also glad I decided to watch it with my own 11-year-old daughter.
While there were a few scenes — including one involving a selfie — that made us gasp in shock, my daughter told me that she liked the film’s message in the end: you don’t have to change yourself just to be liked.
One thing is certain. This film will spark challenging discussions, especially between parents and their children. How can that be a bad thing?
Cuties (Mignonnes) received the Directing Award/World Cinema Dramatic at the 2020 Sundance International Film Festival & the Special Jury Mention at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival/Generation Kplus.
Watch the Cuties (Mignonnes) Trailer here.
Watch the “Why I Made Cuties” interview with Maïmouna Doucouré here.