The director of Cuties has said she received death threats after a promotional poster for the film was criticised for sexualising children.
Netflix apologised and removed the image after receiving significant backlash on social media last month.
Filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré has now told Deadline she “received numerous death threats” over the poster.
She said Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos phoned her directly to apologise after the poster sparked controversy.
Cuties originally premiered at the Sundance film festival in January and received positive reviews from critics.
“Things happened fairly quickly because, after the delays [due to coronavirus], I was completely concentrating on the film’s release in France. I discovered the poster at 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.”
‘Nuanced and sensitive film’
Cuties follows an 11-year-old who joins a dance group. Doucouré says it is meant to tackle the issue of sexualisation of young girls.
Netflix showed girls posing in skimpy outfits in its promotional poster for the award-winning French drama, which sparked online disapproval and a petition calling for Netflix to drop the film.
However, many defended the movie and said Netflix had not accurately represented it in the poster.
The film is intended to be a commentary on the sexualisation of pre-adolescent girls – rather than an endorsement of it.
“The truth of the movie, as has been well covered by reviews and audience reactions, is that it is the nuanced, sensitive tale of a pre-teen girl who gets caught between two cultures,” said Deadline’s Tom Grater.
In her interview with the publication, Doucouré herself noted: “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 hyper-sexualisation of children.”
Actress Tessa Thompson tweeted: “Disappointed to see how it was positioned in terms of marketing. I understand the response of everybody. But it doesn’t speak to the film I saw.”
Doucouré said she received “really supportive” messages from people who had seen the film, as well as “extraordinary support” from the French Government.
She added the film is set to be used as an educational tool in her home country.
In its apology, Netflix said the promotional image was “not representative” of the film itself and said it was “deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork”.
“We had several discussions back and forth after this happened. Netflix apologised publicly, and also personally to me,” Doucouré explained.
She confirmed she received a direct phone call from Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, but did not reveal details of the discussion.
Cuties, which was originally titled Mignonnes, is scheduled for release on the streaming service later this month.