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July 17, 2017

Sofia Coppola Defends ‘The Beguiled’ Against Backlash

If you’ve taken a stroll through Film Twitter during the last few weeks, you’ve likely seen the backlash that has been generated against Sofia Coppola. The director has been taken to task for “The Beguiled,” her steamy drama/comedy set during the Civil War that doesn’t feature any African-American characters. In fact, Coppola excised the slave character Mattie, who is featured in Thomas Cullinan’s book and Don Siegel‘s 1971 movie. Others, however, counter that the director’s film tells the story of “The Beguiled” through her distinct lens, and even if you want more representation, perhaps the last person who should be tackling a slave narrative is Sofia Coppola. Now, the filmmaker herself has stepped into the storm of controversy.

In a statement to Indiewire, Coppola explains the creative choices she made, and in particular when it comes to Mattie, says it was done out of respect, and with an awareness of not wanting to appropriate someone else’s experience or culture. Here’s an excerpt of what she had to say:

I wanted to tell the story of the isolation of these women, cut off from the world and in denial of a changing world. I also focused on how they deal with repression and desire when a man comes in to their abandoned world, and how this situation affects each of them, being at different stages of their life and development. I thought there were universal themes, about desire and male and female power dynamics that could relate to all women….

….Throughout the film, we see students and teachers trying to hold on to their crumbling way of life. Eventually, they even lock themselves up and sever all ties to the outside world in order to perpetuate a reality that has only become a fantasy. My intentions in choosing to make a film in this world were not to celebrate a way of life whose time was over, but rather to explore the high cost of denial and repression….

….Some have said that it is not responsible to make a film set during the Civil War and not deal directly with slavery and feature slave characters. I did not think so in preparing this film, but have been thinking about this and will continue to do so. But it has been disheartening to hear my artistic choices, grounded in historical facts, being characterized as insensitive when my intention was the opposite.

Thoughts? Let us know what you think about “The Beguiled” and Coppola’s statement in the comments section.

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