Netflix is facing a lawsuit over its French-language film No Limit, which suggests that free diver Francisco “Pipin” Ferreras deliberately killed his wife, Audrey Mestre, during a diving incident. The film is a fictionalized version of the couple’s story. Ferreras is portrayed as abusive and jealous of his wife’s success and sabotaging her air tank in the climactic scene. Mestre drowned in 2002 in the Dominican Republic while attempting a dive after her compressed air tank malfunctioned.
Netflix charged with defamation
Ferreras filed a defamation lawsuit, alleging that the film portrays him as a murderer. He stated in a phone interview that the film hurt him deeply and turned the story around. He maintained that Mestre’s death was a tragic accident caused by several technical factors.
The film includes a disclaimer stating that it is a “work of fiction” and that any resemblance to real people is coincidental. It also says it is “inspired by real events,” with a title card at the end of the film showing Mestre’s photograph and a brief account of her death.
The film was vetted by lawyers before production, according to the writer-director David M. Rosenthal, who does not believe Ferreras has a case. He stated that the film is a fictionalization of stories that were very much in the public eye, from documentaries to many articles and books about this.
Netflix released the film in September, and it was the most popular non-English movie on the platform for a couple of weeks. Since its release, Ferreras has received accusatory comments on social media. His lawyer, Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, has sued Netflix twice before, representing people who claim the platform’s fictional shows defamed them.
In a statement, Rufus-Isaacs said that the filmmakers of “No Limit” had engaged in a “clear and despicable libel” and that filmmakers cannot make a film about a real-life situation and change some names and dress it up as fiction to escape liability for defamation. He believes that a jury may award Ferreras a significant amount of damages.
How Ferreras and Mestre’s story shared over the years
The story of Ferreras and Mestre has been told in several ways over the last 20 years, including an ESPN documentary that was critical of Ferreras and raised concerns about safety standards at the time of the fatal dive. Ferreras has maintained that Mestre’s death was a tragic accident and pointed to a report that attributed the malfunction to technical factors. He is seeking to release his documentary about the story.
Netflix declined to comment on the lawsuit. Ferreras hopes to clear his name through the lawsuit, as well as through his documentary. The case raises questions about the responsibility of filmmakers when portraying real-life events and individuals in fictionalized versions.