France's Oscar selection committee announced the five films on its shortlist to submit to the Academy Awards as a potential nominee for the 2020 Best International Feature Film Oscar category, and it includes Cuties. Maïmouna Doucouré's film about a young Senegalese Muslim girl became a hot-button issue in the U.S. over the summer thanks to Netflix's marketing campaign. Many accused the streamer of sexualizing young children to promote the film, and the filmmaker said she received death threats during the fallout.
The other four films on France's shortlist are Francois Ozon's Ete 85 (Summer of 85); Maiwenn's ADN (DNA); Filippo Meneghetti's Two of Us; and Fanny Liatard and Jeremy Trouilh's Gagarine. The selection committee will meet again on Nov. 19 to decide which film will be submitted to the Oscars to be nominated, reports Deadline. France's submission last year was Ladj Ly's Les Miserables. The film was nominated for the Oscar but lost to South Korea's Parasite.
Cuties first screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January and received acclaim from critics. BAC Films released it in France in August, and it hit Netflix internationally on Sept. 9. The film is about an 11-year-old girl from Senegal who lives in Paris with her family and is split between her traditional family and her friends. Doucouré meant her film to be a criticism of the hypersexualization of young girls, but this was obscured when Netflix began promoting the movie with marketing materials that appeared to do just that.
Before the film was released on Netflix, Doucouré told Deadline she did not see Netflix's international artwork, which was very different from the poster seen in France. "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," Doucouré explained. She started receiving "numerous attacks on my character" from people who thought her film endorsed hyper-sexualizing young girls instead of criticizing it. Doucouré said she also received death threats.
Netflix eventually changed the artwork before the film's release and apologized. "We're sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for this film," the streaming giant's statement read. "This was not an accurate representation of the film so the image and description has been updated."
While Cuties' future at the Oscars is still being decided, the film already captured a major award nomination. Earlier this week, the film was nominated for Best International Feature at the Gotham Awards, which honors independent film. The other nominees in the category are Wolfwalkers, Beanpole, Martin Eden, and Identifying Features. The ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2021.