There is a movie adaptation in the works for the novel, Sweetness in my Belly and Dakota Fanning has been roped in for the lead.
The actor will be playing a white Ethiopian Muslim woman and yes, that does sound odd, which is why many could not comprehend the idea. People were very uncomfortable with Fannng taking on the role of an Ethiopian Muslim which she very clearly is not.
Yeah, definitely not well received.
...and this is not it.
Of course the jokes started pouring in
Dakota Fanning immediately responded to the outrage, taking to her Instagram story to clarify that she is not really playing an Ethiopian woman.
"Just to clarify. In the new film I’m a part of, Sweetness in the Belly, I do not play an Ethiopian woman,” Fanning 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 went on to say, "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."
Privilege is right, as many who rushed to Dakota's defence were told so when it came to those outraged clarifying their issues with the movie as a whole. That finally a film on a barely represented community is in the works but it is one with a white lead.
There's a time and place for everything.
It is a common complaint from those who oppose diversity in mainstream cinema that it feels forced and comes with an agenda yet here we are seeing a film set in Africa and having a white woman be incorporated as the lead no less. The book itself - which is a refugee story by the way - is written by a white Canadian woman who has no background for the fiction she's written. Was this really the right story to be adapted for the big screen?
It may not be whitewashing but that still doesn't mean this film isn't in poor taste.