To clarify the casting, Fanning took to Instagram: “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.”
Dakota Fanning is speaking out on the backlash against her upcoming movie.
The 25-year-old actress came under fire this week when reports showed photos of her starring in the film “Sweetness in the Belly” as a Muslim woman in Ethiopia.
Many took to Twitter to slam the former child star and the film for culturally insensitive casting.
“so many talented Muslim actors out there and you cast… Dakota Fanning????????????????????” one user wrote. “and to play an ETHIOPIAN?????????????? I BEG YOUR PARDON???????????????”
“Outta all the Ethiopians in the world, y’all chose Dakota Fanning?,” wrote another.
‘Sweetness In The Belly’: First Clip Of Dakota Fanning As A White Ethiopian Muslim In Refugee Drama-Romance – Toronto http://dlvr.it/RCSdzB
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7:54 AM – Sep 4, 2019
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Fanning addressed the backlash on her Instagram story Wednesday, noting her character is a British woman living in Africa rather than an African herself.
“Just to clarify. In the new film I’m a part of, Sweetness in the Belly, I do not play an Ethiopian woman,” she wrote. “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.”
She added: ”Based on a book by Camilla Gibb, this film was partly made in Ethiopia, is directed by an Ethiopian man (Zeresenay Berhane Mehari) and features many Ethiopian women. It was a great privilege to be part of telling this story.”
All the outrage for Dakota Fanning playing a white Ethiopian in the film version of Sweetness in the Belly is nonsense. She hasn’t taken a role from a black actor. The character is white in the book. It really wouldn’t take much research to find this out before raging about it🙄
1:19 PM – Sep 4, 2019
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Fanning also described the themes she believes the film speaks to.
“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.”
Fanning capped off her post writing she hopes fans enjoy the film, which debuts at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival this month.
Since Fanning’s clarification, users on Twitter have had mixed opinions about her casting.
“All the outrage for Dakota Fanning playing a white Ethiopian in the film version of Sweetness in the Belly is nonsense,” Irish television producer Maïa Dunphy wrote. ”She hasn’t taken a role from a black actor. The character is white in the book. It really wouldn’t take much research to find this out before raging about it.”
“The problem with this film isn’t Dakota Fanning, the issue is that the pain of the refugee experience, of civil war, and the beauty of Islam, are only palatable to Hollywood when the protagonist is a white woman,” another user wrote. “If you prick us, do we not bleed?”
USA TODAY has reached out to a rep for Dakota Fanning for comment.