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‘Desire’ Netflix Controversy: Director Diego Kaplan Defends His Film Against Accusations of Child Pornography

The filmmaker told IndieWire that the scene, which a conservative news site reported to the FBI, was filmed "under the careful surveillance of the girls' mothers."

"Desire"

“Desire”

Netflix/Flixable

Netflix is facing backlash from users online over the Argentinian film “Desire,” which opens with a scene involving a young girl accidentally having her first orgasm. The scene is being accused on social media of featuring child pornography, but director Diego Kaplan told IndieWire that’s not the case. The filmmaker said the child actor was never exploited on set and the scene was filmed “under the surveillance” of her mother.

The scene starts with two young girls watching a television program featuring a cowboy riding a horse. One of the girls imitates the cowboy by sitting on her pillow and bouncing up and down. Kaplan uses slow motion, dramatic music, the sound of heavy breathing, and close-ups of the child’s face to show the character unknowingly masturbating. The girl falls off her pillow and her mother runs in to take her to the hospital.

Netflix was criticized in a post by Megan Fox for the conservative news site PJ Media. Fox said that she reported the scene to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “Netflix is in violation of distributing child pornography because the child in question is very clearly engaging in the sexual act of masturbation,” Fox wrote, “and this exceeds the minimum requirement of merely being suggestive.”

Kaplan responded to the backlash with the following statement to IndieWire:

“Despair” is a film. When we see a shark eating a woman on film, no one thinks the woman really died or that the shark was real. We work in a world of fiction; and, for me, before being a director comes being a father.

Of course this scene was filmed using a trick, which was that the girls were copying a cowboy scene from a film by John Ford. The girls never understood what they were doing, they were just copying what they were seeing on the screen. No adult interacted with the girls, other than the child acting coach. Everything was done under the careful surveillance of the girls’ mothers. Because I knew this scene might cause some controversy at some point, there is “Making Of” footage of the filming of the entire scene.

Everything works inside the spectators’ heads, and how you think this scene was filmed will depend on your level of depravity.

“Despair” was released last year in Argentina under its original title, “Desearas: Al Hombre De Tu Hermana.” Netflix first made the film available in December 2017.

Beyond PJ Media, Netflix and the film have received backlash on social media (see embedded tweets below). Netflix has not responded to IndieWire’s requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Eric Kohn.

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