Big Boys Gone Bananas!*

Big Boys Gone Bananas!* is a documentary that follows the battle between the Dole Food Company and a pair of filmmakers — who made an earlier documentary titled BANANAS!*. That earlier film was about a lawsuit won against the company for its use of banned pesticides in Nicaragua that make field workers sterile. Filmmaker Alex Gibney in his introduction to the film Big Boys Gone Bananas!*  by Fredrik Gertten says the following: “Some documentary filmmakers give voice to people who otherwise may be ignored, offer a fresh perspective to a news story that other media may not cover, and are not afraid to disclose uncomfortable truths.  Fredrik Gertten is not just brave enough to do that job, but to fight for the right to do it.  When Dole Food Company sued Fredrik to keep a documentary he made in 2009 from being seen, he didn’t back down, and he fought back, on principle. So the stage is set. In one corner, Dole the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, fortified with high-priced attorneys and spin-doctors. In the other corner, a Swedish independent filmmaker, armed with his conviction of what is right. What are the odds he’ll win?” This Big Boys Gone Bananas!* is a David vs. Goliath — Dole has 75,000 employees in 90 countries, and earns seven billion dollars a year, making them the biggest food company in the world. Gertten is fighting for the right of documentary filmmakers to do what they feel is right, and that is to expose bad practices of big corporations. Unfortunately Goliath always has more money — the big corporations targeted have deep pockets to file lawsuits, in this case to sue to keep the film from being seen. What is a big corporation capable of doing in order to protect its brand? Swedish journalist / documentary filmmaker Gertten has experienced this personally. His previous film BANANAS!* recounts the lawsuit that 12 Nicaraguan plantation workers successfully brought against the fruit giant Dole. That film was selected for the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival. Nothing wrong so far, right? But then just before leaving Sweden to attend the Los Angeles world premiere of his film, Gertten gets a strange message: the festival has decided to remove BANANAS!* from competition. Then, a scathing, controversial and misinformed article appears on the cover of the Los Angeles Business Journal about the film a week before the premiere. And subsequently, Gertten receives a letter from Dole’s attorneys threatening legal action if the film is shown at this festival. What follows is an unparalleled story that Gertten captured on film. He filmed this entire process of corporate bullying and media spin — Dole attacking the producers with a defamation lawsuit, and utilizing scare tactics along with media-control and PR-spin. This follow-up film is titled Big Boys Gone Bananas!* and can be seen as a thriller and a cautionary tale. But mostly this is a personal story about what happened to Gertten as a documentary filmmaker and to his four-person company and how the livelihood of documentary filmmakers can be easily put into jeopardy. Dole’s attempts at intimidation and repeated attacks through the court system, the news, and internet, and their hostile and open threats against Gertten are despicable. Dole is relentless in its pursuit of Gertten, and attempts to use its power as a big corporation to bury his film by using the media and journalists to ruin Gertten’s reputation with lies. It’s both a great warning against the dangers of the multinational corporations’ power over public perception and media reporting; and also a refreshing tale of grassroots resistance to that power. The funny thing is most of those involved admitted that they did not even watch the film. The company never addresses the facts stated in the film and only says repeatedly that it’s all lies and defamatory. This is fascinating to me as a molecular biologist. Dole tried to call accusations “slanderous” for what has been proven in research (the molecular structures have been proven to induce the effects that the farm workers manifested). They attempt to keep Gertten in the courts so that he will be damaged socially and financially. The tactics they used to try to suppress a small film from being shown were unconscionable. Well, perhaps if these creeps would invest the same amount of money in helping their workers instead of paying high paid liars… I mean lawyers… to protect them from their misdeeds, this could have been a film about a decent company trying to make the world a better place. It is a David and Goliath story that is mostly a PR war. Gertten doesn’t back down, thankfully. In Europe, he gets much more support than in the U.S. In this film you learn how the little guy can still hold his own with the truth. We need to keep freedom of speech alive and protect journalists and filmmakers who expose the truth. I noticed that the first movie BANANAS!* is not available for viewing, and Netflix was sent a copy of the original letter threatening a lawsuit. Why aren’t they showing it? Am I concerned about the issue of free speech in America? You bet. It’s not necessary to first see or know the content of BANANAS!*. The point is that the original film is an expression of free speech, so freedom of speech is the other big issue. It’s definitely worth knowing that some countries still value the freedom of speech on which this USA country was founded — but has since sold down the river. Hats off to Sweden. Tragic that to get good news Americans sometimes must turn to international news sources. This film is a must-watch (even if you haven’t seen the original film BANANAS!*). It’s about how powerful multinational corporations are, and also how the media continues to fail the public or, worse than that, deceive and lull us into complacency. American media have been corrupted by corporate power — through corporate ownership, corporate advertising, and global corporations who threaten to pull advertising if investigative journalism displeases them. In 1998 the Cincinnati Enquirer did an expose of hometown Chiquita Corp. similar to Gertten’s BANANAS!*. But Chiquita forced them to scrub the story, fire the two reporters, pay $15 million to Chiquita, and run a headline apologizing to Chiquita. So shame on you Dole. If a Dole Troll is watching this, just know that I am not buying their products if I have alternative choices. If there’s a top 10 list of evil companies like Monsanto, Dole is probably up there. The outright bullying done by Dole on this filmmaker is so egregious, that it stirs you up to fight back. It is not enough to boycott Dole. A win-win for everyone would be if everyone bought organic produce only. Take it one step further and start buying organic, and tell everyone you know to do the same. No one should buy produce sprayed with poison. Organic produce is cheaper than doctor bills and funerals. But what impressed and inspired me most is the filmmaker and his fight to get the workers of Nicaragua justice they deserve and his fight against Dole. He took on big business and won. Good for you, Fredrik Gertten. I applaud you for your tenacity and drive to not give up on freedom of speech in the face of such incredible threats. You’re a role model for us all. I was very happy to hear of this triumph of free speech. Gives me a little hope for the rest of us. Bravo to Fredrik Gertten! Thank you for fighting the good fight. Very good story — and extremely important that films like this get out. Make more movies please, because this American wants to watch! I encourage anyone with a social conscience to please watch this movie. People need to be more educated about issues like this. It gave me CLEAR insight into what’s going on in the world. I would like to thank NETFLIX for offering some of the best Films around. I never would have discovered this story if not for my membership. Highly recommend this movie and commend Netflix for showing it. Really enjoyed it. Great film! An absolute MUST see! This is without a doubt one of the most provocative and alarming documentaries about free speech and its impact globally. Very well done. It is one of the most inspiring movies EVER. Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 42m.


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