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The New Arab Staff

Netflix removes controversial film 'Cuties' in Turkey after official complaint

Stricter social media laws mean Netflix must comply with Turkish requests [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 September, 2020

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Ankara requested the streaming giant take down 'Cuties', a French film accused of sexualising young girls.
Netflix has removed the controversial French film "Cuties" from its available titles in Turkey after officials slammed the streaming giant for alleged child exploitation.

The US-based streaming platform said on Tuesday it had "postponed" the release of the film in Turkey after the government last week requested it be blocked.

Under stricter social media and broadcasting laws approved last year, Netflix is required to comply with requests to censor or remove content from its platform in Turkey.

"Cuties" was due to be released on 9 September in Turkey.

The coming-of-age film, written and directed by French-Senegalese director Maimouna Doucoure, explores the world of a young Senegalese Muslim girl living in one of Paris' poorest neighbourhoods.

The 11-year-old joins a twerking dance troupe, a decision that contrasts with her family's traditional values.

A promotional poster released by Netflix caused a stir last month, with angry social media users accusing the streaming platform and filmmaker Doucoure of sexualising young girls.

Netflix has since apologised for the poster, which differed from the original French design and showed four pre-teen girls in skin-baring dance outfits and suggestive poses.

The "inappropriate" poster was not "representative" of the film, Netflix said in a statement last month.

Read more: Netflix row in Turkey after series cancelled 'because of a gay character'

"Cuties" examines the hyper-sexualisation of young girls but does not promote it, Doucoure has since countered.


"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," she told Deadline last week.

"I wrote this film after I spent a year and a half interviewing pre-adolescent girls, trying to understand their notion of what femininity was, and how social media was affecting this idea... The main message of the film is that these young girls should have the time to be children, to enjoy their childhood, and have the time to choose who they want to be when they are adults," Doucoure said.

Despite those clarifications, Turkey's media watchdog RTUK last week ordered Netflix to block the film's release for allegedly promoting the exploitation of children.

The ministry of family and social policy previously said the film "may cause children to be open to negligence and abuse, and negatively impact their psychosocial development".

It is not the first time Netflix has removed content from its platform at the Turkish government's request.

Earlier this year, the streaming giant pulled an episode of the "Designated Survivor" series from Turkey after it appeared to portray fictionalised versions of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of instigating a 2016 coup attempt.

In the TV series, the fictional Turkish president threatens to leave NATO if Washington does not extradite a former rebel living in exile in the US.

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