Mar 29, 2023
Freediver Sues Netflix Claiming Film Depicted Him as a Murderer
(Bloomberg) -- A Cuban-American freediver who set 21 world records sued Netflix Inc. for defamation, claiming the media giant wrongly depicted him as a murderer in the 2022 film No Limits.
The film is presented as a fictional work, inspired by real events, but Francisco Ferreras Rodriguez claims it’s very similar to what happened in his life, with the exception that the film’s lead character, Pascal Gautier, deliberately killed his wife, a fellow freediver. A picture and the name of Ferraras’s wife, Audrey, who drowned in a record attempt dive, appear at the end of the film.
“Many viewers reasonably concluded that Ferreras behaved in real life in the same way that the Gautier character behaves in the film,” Ferreras’s lawyer Alexander Rufus-Isaacs wrote in the complaint, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court. “There was a storm of online abuse directed at him by viewers who believed that he had murdered Audrey.”
Netflix’s docudramas have landed the company in court on numerous occasions now. The company settled a defamation suit by a Georgian chess master who claimed a reference to her in an episode of Queen’s Gambit was sexist and belittling. That suit was also brought by Rufus-Isaacs and is still pending.
Earlier this month, a judge threw out a lawsuit brought by a retired police officer who claimed he was defamed by Netflix’s series Making a Murderer, Variety Magazine reported.
Netflix declined to comment on the Ferreras lawsuit.
No Limits was released Sept. 9 by Netflix and held the No. 1 spot in Netflix’s weekly list of top 10 non-English films for the first two weeks, according to the complaint.
Ferreras said in a phone interview from Cuba that the producers didn’t contact him before the film was released and he only found out about it from friends and posts on Facebook, where he said he was called “all sorts of ugly things.”
“It caught me by surprise,” he said. “Why did they do something like that to us?”
Freediving involves being lowered to a predetermined depth under water, and with no exterior air supply returning to surface by hanging onto a sled with an inflatable lift bag. The diver has to hold his or her breath for two to three minutes while experiencing the pressure from the weight of the water.
Audrey, a French citizen, died as a result of her last dive, when the sled returned to the surface too slowly, leaving her underwater for more than 8 1/2 minutes, according to the complaint. The death was ruled accidental by authorities in the Dominican Republic, according to the complaint.
In the film, it’s suggested Gautier tampered with the equipment to kill his wife.
Ferreras’s last logged record dive was in 2000 when he reached a depth of 162 meters (531 feet), according to the complaint. In 2003, he reached 171 meters, matching the depth of his wife’s last dive.
Ferreras is seeking unspecified monetary damages from Netflix, as well as Nolita Cinema, which produced the film, and David M. Rosenthal, the writer and director.
A representative for Rosenthal didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The case is Ferreras Rodriguez v. Netflix Inc., 23-cv-02302, US District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).
(Updates with plaintiff’s comment)
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