By Rachel Yang
October 07, 2020 at 12:50 AM EDT
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Netflix

Netflix Inc. has been indicted by a grand jury in a Texas county on the charge of promoting lewd visuals of a child in the French film Cuties. 

On Tuesday, Matt Schaefer, a member of the Texas House of Representatives, tweeted a copy of a document, filed Sept. 23, which stated that a Tyler County grand jury has indicted Netflix for "promotion of lewd visual material depicting child," citing Texas Penal Code Section 43.262.

The indictment also alleges that the promotion of the film was "authorized or recklessly tolerated by" Netflix Co-CEO and Chairman Reed Hastings and Co-Chief Executive Officer and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos.

A press release from the Tyler County District Attorney's Office on Oct. 5 confirmed the indictment and added that the summons was served to Netflix on Oct. 1. The offense is a state jail felony.

EW has reached out to the Tyler County DA's office and representatives for Netflix for further comment.

Back in August, the streamer apologized for marketing materials used to promote Cuties, following backlash over a poster that was perceived by many as sexualizing children. The original artwork featured the film's young main characters in suggestive poses and dressed in revealing outfits.

"We're deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties," a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement. "It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description."

A coming-of-age dramedy directed by French filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré, Cuties (Mignonnes in French) follows an 11-year-old Senegalese immigrant named Amy who moves to Paris with her family. She becomes fascinated by a dance troupe at her school, which puts her in conflict with her family's traditional Muslim values.

The film has received mixed reactions, with a split in reception from audiences versus critics. On IMDb, viewers gave Cuties a dismal 1.9 out of 10, while on Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates reviews from critics, it has an 8.6 out of 10.

In an op-ed for The Washington Postdirector Doucouré defended the film and maintained that Cuties was made through a critical lens to "start debate about the sexualization of children in society."

"We, as adults, have not given children the tools to grow up healthy in our society," the filmmaker wrote. "I wanted to open people's eyes to what's truly happening in schools and on social media, forcing them to confront images of young girls made up, dressed up and dancing suggestively to imitate their favorite pop icon. I wanted adults to spend 96 minutes seeing the world through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl, as she lives 24 hours a day. These scenes can be hard to watch but are no less true as a result."

Doucouré added that production was "extremely mindful" of the young performers and a trained counselor was on set.

"There was no nudity except for a one-second shot in which the main characters see the exposed breast of an actress over 18 while watching a video of a dance routine on a grainy mobile screen. The project was even approved by the French government's child protection authorities," she continued.

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