Dakota Fanning is opening up about her new film after accusations of whitewashing
Dakota Fanning
Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

Dakota Fanning is breaking her silence about her controversial new role in her upcoming film Sweetness in the Belly.

The actress, 25, shared a statement on her Instagram Stories on Wednesday to give insight into why she accepted the role of a Muslim woman in the drama. Her statement came on the heels of some users protesting her casting on Twitter believing she had taken the role from black Ethiopian actresses.

“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.”

The actress explained the movie was based on a 2005 book of the same name by Camilla Gibb, who wrote about a white Muslim nurse.

dakota fanning
Credit: Dakota Fanning Instagram Stories Sept 4, 2019

“This film was partly made in Ethiopia, is directed by an Ethiopian man and features many Ethiopian women,” Fanning wrote. “It was a great privilege to be a part of telling this story. 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.”

She added, “I hope you enjoy the film somewhere, somehow after its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival!”

Writer Muhammad Butt critiqued the casting on Twitter, writing, “So many talented Muslim actors out there and you cast… Dakota Fanning????????????????? And to play an ETHIOPIAN??????????? I BEG YOUR PARDON???????????”

Another user wrote, “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. If you prick us, do we not bleed?”

Irish TV producer Maia Dunphy defended the casting choice, tweeting, “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,” Dunphy continued. “The character is white in the book. It really wouldn’t take much research to find this out before raging about it.”

Fanning recently starred in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood as Manson follower Squeaky Fromme, and will next act in the TV series The Angel of Darkness.

Sweetness in the Belly will be shown at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday.