Dakota Fanning responds to ‘whitewashing’ claims over her new film

Dakota Fanning has clarified her role in an upcoming drama following allegations of whitewashing.

The actress, who is white, plays a child refugee abandoned in Africa by her parents and raised as a Muslim in Sweetness In The Belly, an adaption of Camilla Gibb’s 2005 novel of the same name.

After the first clip of the film was released on Wednesday, social media users said the role should have gone to a woman of colour or someone with experience of being a refugee.

Dakota Fanning
Dakota Fanning has responded to allegations of whitewashing over her latest film (Laura Lean/PA)

US actress Fanning, 25, has now provided further details about the character she is playing and said the role is of a British woman.

Writing on her Instagram story, she said: “Just to clarify. In the new film I’m part of, Sweetness in the Belly, I do not play an Ethiopian woman. 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.

“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.”

Fanning, the older sister of actress Elle Fanning, added: “It was a great privilege to be 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.”

Sweetness In The Belly also stars Bafta-winning actress Wunmi Mosaku, The Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar and Aquaman actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.

The film will premiere later this month at the Toronto Film Festival.