Ana Mendieta’s Estate Sues Amazon Studios, Claiming Its Remake of a Horror Classic Rips Off the Late Feminist Artist’s Work

Director Luca Guadagnino has cited Mendieta and other feminist artists as an inspiration for the horror film "Suspiria."

Mia Goth as Sara and Dakota Johnson as Susie star in Suspiria. The film is being sued by the estate of Ana Mendieta for its similarities to her work. Photo courtesy of Alessio Bolzoni/Amazon studios.
Mia Goth as Sara and Dakota Johnson as Susie star in Suspiria. The film is being sued by the estate of Ana Mendieta for its similarities to her work. Photo courtesy of Alessio Bolzoni/Amazon studios.

The estate of Ana Mendieta has filed a suit in Seattle federal court against Amazon Studios. At issue are scenes in one of the streaming giant’s upcoming films, Suspiria, that appear to draw heavily on the Cuban American artist’s work. Director Luca Guadagnino has admitted he drew inspiration from Mendieta’s work, with its focus on female body and violence against women.

According to the complaint, both the film and the trailer used images borrowed from Mendieta’s work. Specifically, the first trailer prominently drew on two performance works from the 1970s, Rape Scene and Untitled (Silueta Series, Mexico).

The estate issued a cease and desist letter in July. A second trailer, released by Amazon in late August, did not feature the scenes in question.

After the movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival at the beginning of September (where it divided critics), Amazon screened the film for an agent of the Mendieta estate. Although the original scenes had been cut, the estate flagged a further eight moments in the film with alleged similarities to the late artist’s work.

Screenshot from the original <em>Suspiria</em> trailer.

Screenshot from the original Suspiria trailer.

The estate—which allows Mendieta’s work to be produced for academic but not commercial purposes—is managed by the artist’s sister, Raquelin Mendieta, and her niece, Raquel Cecilia Mendieta. It is seeking damages and a restraining order that would prevent Amazon from including the infringing images in the film.

The movie is a remake of a 1977 horror film by Dario Argento. In February, Guadagnino, who previously of Call Me By Your Name, told Yahoo that the original Suspiria was “soaked in the ideas of feminist art.” The article notes that it was the director’s mother as well as “the work of feminists artists of the Seventies like Gina Pane, Francesca Woodman, Judy Chicago and Ana Mendieta, that helped shape his creative outlook.”

Mendieta staged her Rape Scene performance in her apartment while studying at the University of Iowa in 1973. The artist’s guests arrived to her home to find the door ajar, and Mendieta stripped naked and bloody, tied to the table in a recreation of a recent rape and murder of a nursing student. For the “Silueta” performance series, Mendieta composed earthworks made in the shape of her own silhouette, inspired by the spiritual connections between the body and nature in Central American and Caribbean religions.

Ana Mendieta, <em>Untitled (Silueta Series)</em>, 1973. Photo courtesy of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, ©Ana Mendieta.

Ana Mendieta, Untitled (Silueta Series), 1973. Photo courtesy of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, ©Ana Mendieta.

The film, which stars Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, and Chloe Grace Moretz, is expected to be an award season contender. Guadagnino received Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director for his 2017 film Call Me by Your Name. It opens in New York and LA on October 26.

As of press time, Amazon Studios had not responded to artnet News’s request for comment.

Menieta died in 1985 after falling from her apartment window in New York City. Her then boyfriend, artist Carl Andre, was tried and acquitted on murder charges.


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