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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 March 2006, 15:33 GMT
Spielberg series sued for haircut
Christina Ponce and her father
Christina Ponce's father showed how short her hair had been cut
A family from the Mescalero Apache tribe is suing the producers of a Steven Spielberg TV series for cutting their daughter's hair for the show.

The family said the hair of Christina Ponce, aged eight, was cut without regard for their tribal customs.

"It's part of our culture not to cut a girl's hair until her Coming of Age ceremony," her father Danny Ponce said.

"The only ones allowed to do that are the parents." His daughter had been acting in mini-series Into the West.

Mr Ponce added that "nobody asked for permission" before a stylist cut Christina's hair. He said he had filed his claim in the US District Court in Albuquerque.

Steven Spielberg
Spielberg has been a leading director for more than 30 years

His legal papers, which seek $250,000 (142,000) for emotional distress and $75,000 (43,000) in damages, named Turner Films Inc and the unknown stylist as defendants.

A Turner Films spokeswoman said the company did not comment on pending litigation.

Into the West is executive produced by Spielberg and is based on the novel by Max McCoy.

It explores the expansion of the American West through the eyes of two families - one white, the other native American.

According to legal papers filed by Mr Ponce, Christina responded through her parents last March to an open casting call for work on Into the West.

'Like a boy'

She attended a three-day shoot near Carrizozo, New Mexico.

Her hair was cut by a stylist to "make her look more 'Indian' and like a male Indian child because the movie casting call failed to produce sufficient young male extras of Indian heritage", the papers state.

The Mescalero tradition forbids cutting a girl's hair as she approaches puberty, in preparation for a sacred Coming of Age ceremony that requires her hair to reach her waist.

Mr Ponce said that before it was cut, his daughter's hair fell midway down her back.

"It was cut very short above her ears. She looked like a boy," he said.

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson has increased state efforts to attract the film industry there in recent years.

Mr Ponce said that, while he welcomed this, film-makers from outside the state should try to be more culturally sensitive.

"Just because you're wealthy, you don't do something without checking first," he said.

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