(TMU) – Fallout surrounding the Netflix release of the controversial French film Cuties (Mignonnes) is showing no sign of subsiding after a grand jury in Texas indicted the video streaming company over the “promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child.”
The complaint alleges Netflix “knowingly” promoted visual material which “depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 years of age at the time the visual material was created, which appeals to the prurient interest in sex, and has no serious, literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
— Matt Schaefer (@RepMattSchaefer) October 6, 2020
The indictment means that the Texas jury found “probable cause” that a felony was committed by the company.
Netflix had became the focus of boycott calls and demands to “cancel Netflix” after the company released promotional materials for the film showing pre-teen girls dancing in skimpy outfits.
The independent filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré claims the film is semi-autobiographical and was meant to convey her own experiences and warn against the sexualization of adolescents.
The indictment, which was handed down last month in Tyler County, could see Netflix receiving a fine of $20,000.
In a statement, Netflix said: “This charge is without merit and we stand by the film.” Netflix also described the film as “a social commentary against the sexualization of young children”.
The film follows the story of Amy, an 11-year-old Muslim girl who joins a dance troupe in defiance of her parents where she is then taught provocative dances in an attempt to win a competition.
The film won critical acclaim when it premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where Doucouré received a world cinema dramatic directing award.
The filmmaker describes her work as “a deeply feminist film with an activist message.”
“I really put my heart into this film. It’s actually my personal story as well as the story of many children who have to navigate between a liberal western culture and a conservative culture at home,” Doucouré said in an interview with Deadline.
Outrage over the film spread like wildfire after Netflix released its provocative poster promoting the film’s Sept. 9 release on the streamer, which sharply differed from the original theatrical poster for the film.
“I discovered the poster as the same time as the American public,” Doucouré explained. “My reaction? It was a strange experience. 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.”
“I received numerous attacks on my character from people who had not seen the film, who thought I was actually making a film that was apologetic about hypersexualiation of children,” she added. “I also received numerous death threats.”
However, claims by the filmmaker that her film conveys a message that children must be protected have not dissuaded critics.
In a press release, Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin said: “The legislators of this state believe promoting certain lewd material of children has destructive consequences.”
“If such material is distributed on a grand scale, isn’t the need to prosecute more, not less? A grand jury in Tyler County found probably cause for this felony, and my job is to uphold the laws of this state and see that justice is done.”
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