Dakota Fanning defends Sweetness in the Belly role after "whitewashing" accusations

5 September 2019, 16:19


By PopBuzz

The actress clarified the role she plays in 'Sweetness in the Belly' after whitewashing allegations.

Actress Dakota Fanning has clarified her role in the upcoming film Sweetness in the Belly, which faced scrutiny and accusations of whitewashing this week after her role was described as that of a "white Ethiopian Muslim" refugee.

Deadline tweeted a fairly provocative description of Dakota Fanning's latest role as Lilly Abdal, a white woman (of British origin) who is orphaned in Africa and later escapes to the UK as a refugee when war breaks out in Ethiopia. The headline sparked debate over the types of stories being told in Hollywood and who exactly gets to tell them.

While the premise of Sweetness In The Belly certainly is an interesting one, many wondered why the story of a refugee brought up in Africa had to be told from the point of view of a white woman. The film is based on a book by Camilla Gibb.

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Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" Red Carpet - The 72nd Annual Cannes Film Festival
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" Red Carpet - The 72nd Annual Cannes Film Festival. Picture: Getty

The description of Dakota Fanning's character drew comparisons to Scarlett Johansson, who has faced criticisms over the years for accepting roles that could have (and, arguably, should have) gone to non-white actors.

"Y’all ever seen a 'white Ethiopian Muslim woman'? First it was Scarlett Johansson now it’s Dakota, next Angelina Jolie will play a black Muslim woman! Dang Hollywood," tweeted one person.

"I’ve never seen a single major film abt east africans, let alone east african MUSLIM women, and the moment hollywood decides to make one they make the main character a white. i’m actually astonished and disgusted," tweeted another.

On Wednesday (Sept. 4), Dakota uploaded an Instagram story clarifying her role in Sweetness in the Belly.

Dakota Fanning Sweetness in the Belly
Dakota Fanning Sweetness in the Belly. Picture: Dakota Fanning Instagram

"Just to clarify. In the new film I'm a part of, Sweetness in the Belly, I do not play an Ethiopian woman. I play a British woman abandoned by her parents at seven years old in Africa and raised Muslim. My character, Lilly, journeys to Ethiopia and is caught up in the breakout of civil war. She is subsequently sent "home" to England, a place she is from but has never known. Based on a book by Camilla Gibb, this film was partly made in Ethiopia, is directed by an Ethiopian man and features many Ethiopian women. It was a great privilege to be a part of telling this story. The film is about what home means to people who find themselves displaced and the families and communities that they choose and that choose them. I hope you enjoy the film somewhere, somehow after its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival!"

Dakota Fanning in Sweetness in the Belly
Dakota Fanning in Sweetness in the Belly. Picture: Entertainment One/Screenshot

Sweetness in the Belly comes to the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend (Sept 7).