Netflix has settled a defamation lawsuit brought by the head of a Cuban exile organization, who accused the streamer of falsely portraying him as a terrorist and drug trafficker in Olivier Assayas’ political spy thriller Wasp Network.
Lawyers for Brothers to the Rescue leader Jose Basulto and Netflix notified the court of a deal to resolve the suit, according to a notice of settlement filed on Wednesday. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. A jury trial was set to start next month.
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Wasp Network, released in 2019 with a representation that it’s “based on a true story,” is adapted from the book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War by Fernando Morais. The suit accused Netflix of making concessions to Cuba, which allegedly interfered with the making of the movie to ensure a favorable retelling of history, to shoot in the country. It pointed to requirements by Cuba’s film office stating that it will not allow the filming of scripts that are “detrimental to the image of the country and people of Cuba.”
Among the concessions Netlix allegedly agreed to: Basulto’s depiction as a puppet of the United States and traitor to Cuba; the romanticization of crimes conducted by Fidel Castro’s regime; and the favorable portrayal of the Cuban Five, a group of spies dispatched by Cuba in the early 1990s to infiltrate exile groups based in Miami.
“The Film is an obvious attempt to rewrite and whitewash history in favor of the communist Cuban regime and is factually inaccurate,” the complaint stated. “The Film portrays the Cuban Five as courageous heroes who were simply defending their homeland. In reality, the Cuban Five were a spy network that produced actionable intelligence enabling the Cuban government to commit extrajudicial killings.”
The killings, the suit claimed, include the country in 1996 shooting down two Brothers to the Rescue planes engaging in a humanitarian mission to rescue Cuban refugees headed to the United States on rafts. Basulto said the movie falsely represents his nonprofit as a terrorist organization to justify spying by the Cuban Five.
Members of the group were ultimately convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit espionage, conspiracy to commit murder and acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government, among other charges. Findings in the case and other legal proceedings concerning the incident are extensively cited in the complaint as evidence that the movie deliberately ignored facts about the episode. The Assembly of Cuban Resistance, which works closely with Cuban exile communities, has denounced the film as untruthful.
Specific defamatory statements cited in the complaint include the movie saying that Basulto’s character was “Trained by the U.S. as a terrorist” and calling Brothers to the Rescue a “militant organization.”
Basulto brought claims for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among others. He sought an injunction barring Netflix from further carrying the movie or a court order to force the streamer to edit certain scenes and delete any reference to the movie being based on true events. Assayas was initially named in the complaint but was dismissed in January because he wasn’t served with a complaint.
Wasp Network was not the first project based on real life to land Netflix, which didn’t respond to a request for comment, in court. Alan Dershowitz, a former Soviet chess grandmaster and an associate of New York City con artist Anna Sorokin have all sued the streamer over their depictions in various titles.
In 2020, Cuban exile Ana Martinez also sued Netflix over her portrayal by Ana de Armas as a promiscuous “party girl” in the movie.
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