Born in Paris, France, to Senegalese parents, Maïmouna Doucouré is no stranger to cross cultural environments. As a young girl, Doucouré knew she wanted to work in the film industry. Today her work focuses on representing minorities and cultural groups that are often left out of French film. However, her journey to becoming a film director was not entirely hopeful at the beginning.
When she told her mother about her future aspirations, her mother responded:
“It’s not for us. Do you see people in movies that look like you?”
Doucouré’s mother was referring to the lack of representation in French film, specifically the lack of racial diversity. In addition to lack of racial diversity, there is also a significant gender disparity. This trend rings true not only for the actors but also for the team working behind the scenes.
Due to the unpromising outlook of her childhood dream, Doucouré went on to study biology. Eventually, she realized she wasn’t willing to give up her cinematic aspirations so quickly. And so, she began releasing short films in order to jumpstart her career.
After receiving international attention for her short film Maman(s) (English: Mother(s)) in 2015, Doucouré has now garnered even more popularity thanks to her debut film Mignonnes (English: Cuties). She even won the prestigious Directing Jury Award for the film at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
Doucouré’s film follows eleven-year-old Amy, who is a Senegalese immigrant living in France. The young Amy joins a dance group with other young girls her age. She faces the challenge of discovering her father’s polygamy while also discovering her own femininity and sexuality.
The film also seeks to emphasize how the hypersexualization of young girls in our society is a toxic and abusive element of the modern world.
Mignonnes has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, despite a marketing hiccup with Netflix. The streaming company released a questionable and controversial poster advertising the show that depicted the young female actresses in a highly sexualized manner. The slip-up has been resolved, yet it ironically highlights the very issue that Doucouré is attempting to illustrate: young girls are oversexualized in society. It’s not an opinion: it’s a fact.
In an interview with ARTE, Doucouré states that she sees the objectification of a woman’s body as a form of oppression. She hopes to break down these gender barriers as a film director and screenwriter. One of Doucouré’s central battles is working to create more equality and representation for women in the film industry.
As previously mentioned, Doucouré was discouraged as a young girl to pursue this career by her mother, who was fully aware of the lack of diversity and equality in this field. Now that Doucouré has earned a name for herself in the film industry, she wants to make sure that all little girls see themselves on the screen.
During her interview with ARTE, Doucouré explains that movies are very much like a mirror through which a person constructs themselves. Viewers want to see a reflection of themselves in the film in order to feel a stronger connection and sense of intimacy with the story and its characters. Therefore, it’s important to be sure to represent humans beyond the microscopic lens of the Western World.
Currently, women produce less than 1/4 of films made in Europe.
According to Doucouré, the path to complete gender equality still has a long ways to go. Nevertheless, she maintains that society is on the right path to achieving greater representation.
More than anything, this kind of equality and recognition needs to be improved in France. Doucouré discusses how the American film industry has treated her much better than the French industry. In terms of awards, she has been recognized more in the United States than in France. Doucouré hopes that this will soon no longer be the case for minorities like herself working in the French film industry.
Mignonnes promises to be a must-see. And at only 32 years old, we can be certain that Maïmouna Doucouré will release many more spellbinding films. Keep an eye out for this one because she’s succeeded in reminding the French film industry that gender, race, and ethnicity have nothing to do with individual talent. Maïmouna Doucouré has quite a bright future ahead of her.