Holiday season and Oscar season are usually one and the same, as the end of the year also has critics and Academy members rounding out their top ten movies of the year. In 2021, the typical Oscar fanfare will occur a bit later since the Academy decided to delay its eligibility period until the end of February, but the narrowing of contenders has already begun overseas. France has just decided on its shortlist for the 2021 Academy Awards, and Netflix’s Cuties is among them.
Maïmouna Doucouré’s Cuties made headlines in September shortly after Netflix rolled out its marketing for the French film, which sent subscribers into a tailspin over a poster accused of hyper-sexualizing the young girls in the film. Following some viral backlash, Netflix changed the poster for the film on its website and issued an apology to the public and its writer/director, the latter of whom was unaware of the changes to the poster Netflix had issued. The situation led to a petition demanding Netflix remove the film and a spike in cancellations to the streaming service.
When France’s Oscar selection committee made its shortlist last week, Cuties made the cut within the country’s list of five films it will submit for the category of Best International Feature, per Deadline. The other films on the list are a coming-of-age movie called Eté 85 (translated to Summer of 85), a musical titled 8 Women, a historical drama called ADN (translated to DNA) and a drama titled Gagarine. Later this week, the selection committee will meet again and make its final selection.
Before its Netflix controversy, Cuties was warmly received at Sundance by its attendees, including Thor: Ragnarok’s Tessa Thompson, who defended the movie amidst the outrage. The movie won Maïmouna Doucouré the festival’s Directing Award and received a 87% Rotten Tomatoes score from critics back in January. Doucouré received death threats online in September well ahead of the film’s release on Netflix, before subscribers had a chance to see the film.
The filmmaker said Cuties was made as a social commentary against the sexualization of young children – a topic close to Maïmouna Doucouré and the girls she interviewed prior to making the film. The movie centers on an 11-year-old from a Muslim Senegalese background, who breaks family tradition when she joins a dance crew with other girls her age.
It should be noted that even if Cuties is selected by France, the movie has a lot of competition from other movies around the world that will also submit for the Best International Feature category. Oscar prediction site Gold Derby doesn’t even have Cuties on its radar at the moment, with movies from Canada, Czech Republic, Iran, Israel, Japan, Poland, Romania and Russia filling its “leading contenders” category. Cuties' chances are likely not as competitive as they could have been as well due to all the bad press the movie has received, though it has certainly garnered a peaked interest and name recognition from the backlash.
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