American actress Dakota Fanning has been forced to clarify her upcoming role in Sweetness In the Belly, after a viral Twitter post about the film led to accusations of whitewashing.
Fanning’s character was incorrectly described as a “white Ethiopian Muslim” by Deadline which sparked a flurry of online criticism over why a Muslim actress has not been cast.
Outta all the Ethiopians in the world, y’all chose Dakota Fanning? pic.twitter.com/lEqZPAvUFC— Kae Shanice 🌺🍒 (@TheeKaeShanice) September 4, 2019
Dakota Fanning plays “Ethiopian Muslim” and Lena Dunham writes a script about Syrian refugee in 2019 and Hollywood thinks it’s okay. https://t.co/Dj60IYAOQt— T a z e e n (@tazeen) September 5, 2019
Fanning later clarified that her character isn’t Ethiopian, but a British woman, Lilly, who was “abandoned by her parents” and grew up in Ethiopia.
“In the new film I’m 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,” she wrote on Instagram.
“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 [Zeresenay Berhane Mehari] and features many Ethiopian women.”
She said it was a “great privilege” to work on adapting a novel about “people who find themselves displaced” and said she hopes people enjoy the film “somehow”.
Sweetness in the Belly, which also stars Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country), will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival later this month.