A federal Judge for the United States District Court of the Southern District of Florida dismissed a lawsuit against Netflix, film director Olivier Assayas, and others finding that the portrayal of actress and singer Ana Margarita Martinez in the 2019 film “Wasp Network” was not defamatory.
In October of 2020, Martinez sued the streaming giant. In her complaint, she alleged that both the film’s depiction of her as a “sexually immoral individual,” and her association with the Cuban mafia were defamatory and went beyond “artistic license” or “dramatization.”
During the hearing on Netflix Motion to Dismiss on February 23, 2023, Martinez’s lawyer Leon F. Hirzel IV referenced a scene where Martinez was portrayed kissing two women on the lips and dancing provocatively with another man. But the Judge found the scene was not defamatory, stating that the film simply portrayed a bride at a wedding having a good time.
The film centers around Martinez’ relationship with an agent for the Cuban government, who married her under false pretenses in order to infiltrate the anti-Communist Cuban community, before abandoning her and returning to Cuba. Martinez alleged that the film concealed the fact that she was a “victim of a premeditated crime conceived and implemented” by Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior.
In their Motion to Dismiss, the Defendants argued that Martinez’s allegations did not amount to “reckless disregard” of these facts, and that viewers would probably understand that events in the film were dramatized. Assayas, the director, additionally argued that the Court did not have jurisdiction over him, because he resided in France.
Martinez further argued that the Court should look at defamation in a particular community (namely Miami’s Cuban American population) and not just how viewers across the world saw her character. She contended that, in the Miami Cuban community, her depiction in the film cast her in a distinctly negative light.
Judge William P. Dimitrouleas nevertheless dismissed the lawsuit on February 23, 2023, finding that defamation claims can have a chilling effect on the First Amendment. The Judge went on to find that while factual matters should not be decided on a motion to dismiss, in this case the alleged conduct did not rise to the level required for a defamation claim.
Martinez is represented by Leon F. Hirzel IV, Andre L. Dreyfuss, Alec P. Hayes, Pedro V. Roig and Patrick G. Dempsey of Hirzel Dreyfuss & Dempsey PLLC.
The defendants are represented by James G. Sammataro, Felicity Kohn and Tom J. Ferber of Pryor Cashman LLP,
The case is Martinez v. Netflix et al., case number 1:20-cv-24328, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is a boutique entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The firm has extensive experience handling cases involving defamation, having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.