After director Sofia Coppola’s latest film “The Beguiled” debuted in June, it has received a great deal of backlash.
The backlash comes after Coppola failed to feature an key character. The African American slave character named Mattie was featured in both Thomas Cullinan’s original book and the 1971 film. Many critics found her choice odd as the storyline is set in the Confederate South.
Coppola has penned an open letter to IndieWire defending her choice, saying “In his 1966 novel, Thomas Culling made the choice to include a slave, Mattie, as a side-character. He wrote in his idea of Mattie’s voice, and she is the only one who doesn’t speak proper English – her voice is not even grammatically transcribed,” she wrote.
“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.”
“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,” she continued.
“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 choice grounded in history facts, being characterized as insensitive when my intention was the opposite.”
Coppella won the Cannes Best Director Award at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year in May.
“The Beguiled” is still playing in select theatres.