French filmmaker Maimouna Doucoure received death threats after her coming-of-age dance drama "Cuties" launch on Netflix was advertised with an inappropriately sexualised poster.
The film earned praise when it debuted at January's (20) Sundance Film Festival in Utah for how it addressed the hypersexualisation of young girls, but its release was hit by controversy due to a suggestive poster of its child stars posing in their dancing outfits.
The poster sparked a huge backlash, with an online petition associating it with paedophilia gaining more than 126,000 signatures, and Doucoure says she also received death threats from furious members of the public.
"I received numerous attacks on my character from people who had not seen the film, who thought I was actually making a film that was apologetic about hypersexualiation of children," she tells Deadline.com. "I also received numerous death threats."
The director and screenwriter found the furore all the more bizarre as she has been focusing on promoting the film, about a girl from a traditional French-African family who joins a twerking dance troupe, in France, where it is titled Migonnes.
"I discovered the poster at the same time as the American public," she explains. "My reaction? It was a strange experience. I hadn't seen the poster until after I started getting all these reactions on social media, direct messages from people, attacks on me. I didn't understand what was going on. That was when I went and saw what the poster looked like."
The filmmaker was backed by many who had seen her debut feature, including "Thor: Ragnarok" actress Tessa Thompson, and she says the Netflix poster was "not representative of the film and especially its message."
She has, however, made up with Netflix chiefs after receiving a personal apology from the streaming service's co-CEO Ted Sarandos over the phone.