Dakota Fanning wants people to know that just because she is playing a woman raised in Ethiopia in her new film does not mean the role was whitewashed in order for her to play it.
Fanning is currently preparing to premiere her new film Sweetness in the Belly at the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend. Written by Laura Phillips and directed by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, the film centers on a 7-year-old British child abandoned by her parents in Ethiopia and raised Muslim. When a Civil War breaks out in the East African country, she is sent back home to England, a place that has become foreign to her.
After a tweet from a news outlet labeled her character a “White Ethiopian Muslim,” many people online were unsure of how to comprehend the role and worried she was playing a Muslim and/or Ethiopian national made to be white for the film.
But in a post to her Insta story on Thursday, Fanning attempts to clear up the confusion, explaining the character and plot. “I do not play an Ethiopian woman. I play a British woman abandoned by her parents at seven years old in African 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,” Fanning explains. “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 part of telling this story. This film is about what home means to people who find themselves displaced and the families and communities that they choose and that choose them.
See Fanning’s full response, as well as some of the tweets regarding her casting, below.
so many talented Muslim actors out there and you cast... Dakota Fanning???????????????????? and to play an ETHIOPIAN?????????????? I BEG YOUR PARDON??????????????? https://t.co/XAgs6y2G98— Muhammad Butt (@muhammadbutt) September 4, 2019
you know the Hollywood execs who greenlit this movie thought this was smart, progressive, and that having a white woman play a Muslim refugee (they could relate to) was a bold choice— Zaron Burnett III (@Zaron3) September 4, 2019
The film will show at TIFF on Saturday, Sept. 7.