Maïmouna Doucouré ([ma.i.mu.na du.ku.ʁe]; born 1985) is a French film director and screenwriter. She made her feature film directorial debut with Cuties in 2020 and became a popular and controversial figure globally after the film's international release on Netflix. On 8 March 2019 coinciding with the International Women's Day, she received the Academy Gold Fellowship for Women from the Academy Women's Initiative.
|Born||1985 (age 34–35)|
|Alma mater||Pierre and Marie Curie University|
Doucouré was born and raised in Paris to parents of Senegalese origin and graduated with a licence in biology from Pierre and Marie Curie University. She created and released her first self-made short film, Hide-and-seek, in 2013.
In 2015, she produced her second short film, Maman(s), with the assistance of studio Bien ou Bien Productions and producer Zangro. The short film was critically acclaimed for its screenplay and was premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, 2016 Sundance Film Festival and also jointly won the César Award for Best Short Film at the 42nd César Awards in 2017 along with Towards Tenderness directed by Alice Diop. During the 2017 Cesar Award ceremony, she reflected her painful experiences of being a black, Muslim female director while working in a white male dominated film industry.
She penned the script for her debut feature film Cuties in early 2017 taking her life experience as a refugee girl into account. The script eventually won the Sundance's Global Filmmaking Award in 2017. The film is based on a traditional Senegalese Muslim girl who is caught and torn between two contrasting fortunes, traditional values and internet culture while also speaking about hypersexualization of preadolescent girls. It premiered in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition sector of 2020 Sundance Film Festival on 23 January 2020 and won the Directing Jury Award praising the script of the film. The film was not deemed controversial when it was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Doucouré said she "created a climate of trust between the children and myself" during filming. She stated while working on the film, "I explained to them everything I was doing and the research that I had done before I wrote this story. I was also lucky that these girls' parents were also activists, so we were all on the same side. At their age, they've seen this kind of dance. Any child with a telephone can find these images on social media these days." She also stated that she worked with a child psychologist during filming. It was revealed that Doucouré spent nearly 18 months researching studies how young and pre-teen children are being exposed to 18+ adult content and sexualised images on social media in order to showcase the accurate reality in the film. She revealed that approximately 700 girls were auditioned to choose the suitable girl to play the lead role.
Despite being critically acclaimed, the film became the subject of public controversy with the release of a promotional poster by Netflix. The social media outrage culminated in a petition claiming it "sexualizes an 11-year-old for the viewing pleasure of paedophiles" attracting 25,000 signatures in less than 24 hours. Doucouré was also targeted directly, receiving multiple death threats, even though the director and Netflix both stated that she had never seen the promotional poster in question, and that any promotion of child sexualization is neither intended nor an accurate representation of the movie. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos apologised to Doucouré and the company removed the poster from the platform.
In September 2020, in an interview hosted by French organisation UniFrance she reflected that the film became controversial primarily due to Netflix' selection of artwork. She insisted that she also shares the same spirit and fight against sexualisation of children similar to those who have been criticising the film.
- Keslassy, Elsa (10 March 2019). "UniFrance Forges Ties With AMPAS to Promote Young French Filmmakers". Variety. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
- Diderich, Joelle; Diderich, Joelle (8 March 2019). "French Filmmakers Celebrate Women's Day With Academy". WWD. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
- Waxman, Sharon (29 August 2016). "The Inspiring Story of Maimouna Doucoure - TheWrap's ShortList 2016 Jury Winner". TheWrap. Archived from the original on 13 June 2020. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
- Diao, Claire (28 January 2015). "Les mamans de Maïmouna Doucouré". Bondy Blog (in French). Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- "2016 Sundance Award Winners List" (PDF). Sundance Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 July 2017. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
- "maman-s". Sundance Film Festival. Archived from the original on 13 June 2020. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
- "MAMAN(S) :: A Maïmouna Doucouré short film". Africa.film. 28 September 2018. Archived from the original on 13 June 2020. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
- Haynes, Suyin (4 September 2020). "What the 'Cuties' Director Wants Critics to Know About Her New Film". Time. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
- Goodfellow, Melanie (24 January 2020). "Director Maïmouna Doucouré reveals the "shocking" inspiration behind Sundance drama 'Cuties'". Screen Daily. Archived from the original on 12 June 2020. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
- Halligan, Fionnuala (24 January 2020). "'Cuties': Sundance Review". Screen Daily. Archived from the original on 12 June 2020. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
- Rooney, David (23 January 2020). "'Cuties' ('Mignonnes'): Film Review | Sundance 2020". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 24 June 2020. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
- Srihari, Prahlad (10 September 2020). "Cuties on Netflix: Maimouna Doucoure's debut captures the difficult transition from tween to teen - Entertainment News , Firstpost". Firstpost. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
- Erbland, Kate (24 January 2020). "'Cuties' Review: Netflix Coming-of-Age Tale Goes for the Supernatural When Real Life Is Enough". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
- Nicholson, Amy (24 January 2020). "'Cuties': Film Review". Variety. Archived from the original on 6 June 2020. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
- Sharf, Zack (11 September 2020). "'Cuties' Director Speaks Out Amid Backlash Film Sexualizes Children, Netflix Stands by It". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 12 September 2020. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
- Tinubu, Aramide (10 September 2020). "The Director in the Middle of the #CancelNetflix Backlash Speaks Out". Medium. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
- "Netflix apologises for Cuties film poster". BBC News. 20 August 2020. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
- "Watch 'Cuties' on Netflix For Yourself, Then Apologize to Maïmouna Doucouré". Decider. 9 September 2020. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
- Keslassy, Elsa (14 September 2020). "'Cuties' Director Maimouna Doucouré Says She Shares 'The Same Fight' as Those Condemning Her Film". Variety. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
- "Cuties director 'had death threats' over poster". BBC News. 4 September 2020. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
- "'Cuties' Director Issues Statement Amid Controversy: "We're on the Same Side Against Young Children's Hypersexualization"". Decider. 14 September 2020. Retrieved 15 September 2020.