Following some controversy surrounding her latest movie, Sofia Coppola has written an essay defending The Beguiled and her decision to cut an African American character from her adaptation of the Thomas P. Cullinan novel A Painted Devil.
The film, which is also a remake of the 1971 movie The Beguiled that starred Clint Eastwood, has been heralded by critics, and earlier this year picked up the prestigious award for Best Director at Cannes Film Festival.
However, the film has also been met some criticism, with some people taking to social media and media outlets to express their frustration that Coppola has omitted an African American character, a slave named Mattie, from her adaptation. Likewise, some noted that the film, which is set in the deep south during the Civil War, also failed to address the realities of the different races that, at the time, would have been living there, as well as the realities of the slavery.
Last month, Sofia Coppola gave an interview with Buzzfeed where she spoke about the racial discrepancies in her movie, explaining that “you can’t show everyone’s perspective in a story.”
“I didn’t want to brush over such an important topic in a light way,” the director told Buzzfeed. “Young girls watch my films and this was not the depiction of an African-American character I would want to show them.”
Continuing, the director said that the point of the movie, for her anyway, was to explore the gender dynamics between men and women, and how women of different generations deal with things like repression and desire. She also referenced Cullinan’s novel, in which she said that side character of Mattie, a slave girl, was filled with negative stereotypes.
“I did not want to perpetuate an objectionable stereotype where facts and history supported my choice of setting the story of these white women in complete isolation, after the slaves had escaped. Moreover, I felt that to treat slavery as a side-plot would be insulting,” she explained. “There are many examples of how slaves have been appropriated and “given a voice” by white artists. Rather than an act of denial, my decision of not including Mattie in the film comes from respect.”
“I sincerely hope this discussion brings attention to the industry for the need for more films from the voices of filmmakers of color and to include more points of views and histories,” she said.