Even though it has been shown only in film festivals and not in theaters, the controversy over the new movie Wasp Network is turning increasingly torrid.
The film about the five Cuban intelligence officers convicted of spying in a federal court in Miami — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, René González, Antonio Guerrero, and Fernando González — reflects a biased view of the events and portrays Miami exile leaders as terrorists and opportunists who have no ideology, critics say.
“The movie has a malicious agenda. The characters speak like they are in a socialist realism movie,” said movie critic Alejandro Ríos, who watched it Tuesday at the Toronto Film Festival. Ríos is one of the few Miamians who have seen the full movie. It has no official trailer, and only fragments of the film have been shown in public.
Some who have seen French director Olivier Assayas’ Wasp Network — which features a cast of well-known actors, including Penélope Cruz, Edgar Ramírez, Gael García Bernal, Wagner Moura, and Ana de Armas — said the film idealizes the five Cuban spies.
The film seems to side with the Cuban government, which has labeled the spies as anti-terrorist “heroes” and makes no apology for deaths tied to their actions that resulted in the 1996 shootdown of the Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue airplanes.
Critics have labeled it a “propaganda” film because it also excludes any sympathy for the victims of the shootdown — Miami pilots Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña, Pablo Morales, and Armando Alejandre Jr. — or their relatives.
“It is a propaganda film, part of Castro-Communism and one of its worst attacks on human rights, not only in Cuba but in the world and specifically the United States,” said Cuban author Zoé Valdés, who has used her social-media accounts to call for a boycott of the movie.
“I posted the movie poster with one red word over it: ‘Disgust’. And I called for the boycott in this way: don’t go to see it, don’t pay to see it. No Cuban who truly respects freedom and loves his country and loves the United States should go to see that movie, which also got mediocre reviews from the professional critics at the Venice Festival,” Valdés added.
Rios also noted that the leader of the Brothers to the Rescue, Jose Basulto, is portrayed in the movie as “an opportunistic and cynical person.”
Jorge Mas Canosa, the late founder of the Cuban American National Foundation, is portrayed as a “shadowy personality,” he added.
“There’s a sort of joy when they learn that Mas Canosa is sick,” the critic added, referring to a scene featuring García Bernal, who plays the role of Wasp chief Gerardo Hernández.
Other scenes portray Cuban exiles as drug traffickers.
“The Cuban exiles are dehumanized. Their ideology is never defined, although the freedom of Cuba is mentioned at some point,” Ríos said.
On the other hand, Villa Marista, the headquarters of Cuba’s secret police and a place of repression feared by most Cubans, is portrayed as “a hotel where the people are treated somewhat nicely,” Ríos added.
Another alleged victim of the film’s bias is Ana Margarita Martínez, the betrayed former wife of spy Juan Pablo Roque, who is portrayed as a lightweight.
Martínez saw Roque leave their Kendall house in the middle of the night and heard nothing more about him until he appeared on Cuban television accusing his fellow Brothers to the Rescue pilots of terrorism.
“I was a single mother focused on providing for my children. My life consisted of work, the children, and church,” Martínez told el Nuevo Herald, describing how she met Roque.
“I am not surprised [by the film’s bias] because both the book and the movie have their agenda, and I do not share that agenda. It’s logical they don’t want to know my point of view,” Martínez added.
The movie is based on the 2012 book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, by Brazilian author Fernando Morais. It was reissued in Cuba in 2013 and praised at a ceremony attended by high-ranking officials.
“It’s a story to glorify criminals,” said Martínez, who added that the failure by the producers, director, and actors to interview the Cuban exiles portrayed in the film showed they are “immoral and not very ethical.”
“The actress Ana de Armas, who was going to play the role of a person who is alive, the least she could have done is contact me to make the role as realistic as possible,” said Martínez, who was played in the film by De Armas.
Told that the movie portrays Basulto as an opportunist — according to those who saw it — Martínez said: “That’s the same idea that Juan Pablo tried to put in my head.”
Martínez also met one of the other spies, René González, who visited Roque at times, and even flew with them in one of the Brothers to the Rescue airplanes.
“He was a cynic,” Martínez said of González. She also met his wife, Olga Salanueva, after she came to the United States.
“There was no chemistry,” Martínez said, adding that she even took González’s daughter with her own children to a Marlins game.
“They are very resentful people,” she said of the couple.
“It bothers me that a director like Olivier Assayas did that. I am bothered by his decision to join the side of lies and infamy. And I am also bothered by what an actor like the Venezuelan Edgar Ramírez and an actress like Ana de Armas did,” said Valdes, the author who is calling for a boycott of the film.
She said she has had “private direct discussions” with the director, who reached out to her after learning of her criticisms of the movie.
“I cannot conceive of a movie about Hitler where the publicity poster asks if he’s a traitor or a hero, which is the case with this film about the five terrorist spies,” she said.