"Cuties", review

“Cuties” shows the intimacy of migrant (Muslim) family life despite patriarchy; that overshadows a young girl’s idea of freedom (from social media)

“Cuties” (“Mignonnes”), directed and written by Maimouna Doucoure, probably seemed like a French-African art film to Netflix, and it has surely created moral, self-righteous controversy about “objectifying” female children of color.

Amy (Fathia Youssiuf) is an 11-year old girl growing up in a poor section of Paris as a Sengalese Muslim immigrant.  The early scenes show how the women in the extended family support the religious socialization of family life in a patriarchal world that accepts polygamy, but seems surprisingly intimate and smoothly functioning, with her strict mother and god-mother.  A big extended family wedding looms (OK, I didn’t care for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” but I remember sitting through it back in 2002).

But Amy has discovered the Internet, especially on smartphones and especially social media. She feels the pressure from other girls to show off her future desirability. She loosens up and plans to join a freewheeling dance troupe. Right on, you have to ask why 11 year old’s are tied to social media.  That’s too young.  (I thought that Facebook’s min age was 13, and some say it should be 16.) But, the social culture is so close and competitive underneath that social media addiction would be impossible to stop, even in a strictly religious culture like theirs.

Her conduct subterfuges herself. She takes a photo of herself that would meet the legal definition of child pornography and publishes it (the movie ignores the legal point).  That gets her banned but then she pushes a competitor into a canal (nearly drowning her) to get a space back in the troupe.  In the end, well, all’s well that ends well and she gets her independence, like in a Shakespearian comedy.

As for coming of age, there is a scene midpoint of the movie (screenplay middle) where Amy is surprised when she suddenly has her first ever menstrual period in front of a protective family “matriarch” (so to speak) to takes care of her understanding she is becoming a woman.

The intimacy of the family life and social settings stresses another point:  in communities like this, COVID19 would seem impossible to stop;  it would tear right through it.

Here is a “constructive criticism” in the Washington Post by Karen Attiah with many sublinks.  However Todd Spangler has a rather alarmist report from Variety on Netflix “cancellations” (cancel-culture on companies?)

As for the immigration, France, as a republic, used to incorporate African states as actually part of the country.

Paris Metro scene, wiki    My most recent visit, 2001.  It will be a while given this Covid travel restriction.

Name: “Cuties“

Director, writer: Maimouna Doucoure

Released: 2020

Format: 1.85:1, French and Sengalese w subtitles

When and how viewed: Netflix, subscription, 2020/9/17

Length: 96

Rating: TV-MA (would be “R”)

Companies: Netflix

Stars: ****_     (Look beyond the sensationalism)

(Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2020 at 11 AM EDT