FILE - This image released by Netflix shows the cast of the coming-of-age film "Cuties."
A group of international film makers on Tuesday defended the director of "Cuties" against attacks by Republicans who have pulled the French film into the US election fray.
Statements by Republican lawmakers and an online campaign have tapped into concern over child sexual molestation, making the film political leverage in the battle to re-elect Republican President Donald Trump.
Film maker Maimouna Doucoure was the subject of "unfounded, caricatural and despicable attacks" in the US where "Cuties" is available on Netflix, the film directors said in a statement received by AFP.
"This incredibly violent campaign, which has led to death threats against the director, is being carried out by some Republican senators and ultra-conservative networks who use and manipulate this film for political purposes and as part of the US presidential campaign," the film makers said.
Signatories include "Gremlins" maker Joe Dante, "Tin Drum" director Volker Schloendorff, Cristian Mungiu, who won the Cannes festival's top prize with "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days", as well as Frenchman Bertrand Tavernier and Belgians Lucas Belvaux and Luc Dardenne.
"The controversy thus organised against this film has a name, which unfortunately punctuates the history of cinema: censorship!" they said.
The film, called "Mignonnes" in French, portrays a young, rebellious French Senegalese girl who joins a pre-teen hip-hop dance group that is pushed into performing suggestive dances.
The film earned director Doucoure an award at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.
In Washington Post op-ed, Doucoure said her film was about the objectification of women and children, and the pressure pre-teen girls feel to be pretty and sexy.
She had hoped "to start a debate about the sexualization of children in society today", she said.
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