Netflix is facing criminal charges over Cuties, a coming-of-age film that has been widely criticized for exploiting young actors and encouraging the sexualization of children.
According to legal documents obtained by the Texas Tribune, a grand jury in Tyler, Texas, indicted the streaming giant for promoting content that "depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 years of age at the time the visual material was created, which appeals to the prurient interest in sex."
Netflix responded to the indictment in a statement to the New York Post: "Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. This charge is without merit and we stand by the film."
Cuties, a French film written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré, tells the story of an 11-year-old Muslim girl living in Paris who rebels against her strict parents by joining a girl dance group. Netflix purchased worldwide rights to the film shortly before it premiered at Sundance, where it won the award for World Cinema Dramatic Directing.
But despite its accolades and critical acclaim, the movie received criticism from a number of lawmakers, some of whom even went so far as to call it "child pornography."
Netflix issued an apology back in August for using a Cuties movie poster that some believed sexualized the child stars. Doucouré said Netflix's original artwork for Cuties was "not representative of the film and especially its message." She also claimed she received death threats over the marketing, but insisted she was fighting "the same fight" as those who were criticizing the film.
"It's bold, its feminist, but it's so important and necessary to create debate and try to find solutions, for me as an artist, for politicians and parents. It's a real issue," Doucouré told The Hollywood Reporter. "The controversy started with that artwork … The most important [thing] is to watch the film and understand we have the same fight."