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Bananas - Movie Review - 2009

Nicaraguan Planatation Workers vs. Dole Corporation

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Bananas - Movie Review - 2009

Bababas - Poster Art

Oscilloscope Pictures
Filmmaker Fredrik Gertten presents an intense courtroom documentary chronicling the international law suit brought by Nicaraguan banana plantation workers against the Dole Corporation for its continued spraying of Nemecon, a Dow chemical pesticide that was known to cause infertility in men.

A Dramatic Law Suit and Trial

The documentary begins with an introduction to Los Angeles-based personal injury attorney Juan Dominguez -- nicknamed 'Accidentes' -- who most often represented Latin Americans. Dominguez read a newspaper article about Nemagon, a Dow Chemical Co. pesticide being used on Dole Food Corporation banana plantations in Nicaragua. The chemical had been shown to cause infertility in men.

Dominguez, in a sort of high stakes ambulance chase, went down to Nicaragua to meet with banana plantation workers who'd been exposed to Nemagon, and sign them up -- 10,000 in Nicaragua, alone -- as plaintiffs in what was to become a high profile international law suit, Tellez vs. Dole Food Corporation. To pursue the suit, Dominguez partnered with Duane Miller, the San Francisco-based attorney famous for successfully fighting a toxic tort case involving DBCP. Bananas chronicles that law suit from its beginnings to the verdict.

Setting the Stage

Filmmaker Fredrik Gertten uses dramatic archival footage, as well as on camera interviews with workers in Nicaragua, to show how Nemagon permeated their work environment, and spilled over into the rustic shelters provided for them. Filmed worker depositions indicate the extent of their exposure to the chemical. And, they reveal that they have not been able to procreate. Seeing their work conditions is infuriating and hearing their testimony is heart wrenching. By providing this kind of background and showing sequences filmed at the trial, Gertten presents a well-structures and sympathetic case in favor of the workers.

It's Still Not Over

Bananas is an important documentary because it exposes yet another situation in which corporations and their managers have exposed employees -- and other people -- to dangerous work and living conditions. Situations such as that of the Nicaraguan banana plantation workers have also been dramatically exposed in other documentaries -- Crude is a good example, as well as popular narrative features such as Erin Brockovich, Silkwood and A civil Action. Of course, the particulars are different in each film, but thematically, they're remarkably alike. They all provide excellent and dramatic entertainment with ongoing real life relevance.

In the case of Bananas, although the film's denouement is the end of the trial, the story does go on. Attorney Dominguez had to face and fight charges of fraud. And, then, the film itself has come under attack by corporate interests in a way that's reminiscent of the challenge that filmmaker Joe Berlinger has faced over Crude. And, thousands of Nicaraguan banana workers continue to suffer the effects of exposure to hazardous pesticide.

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Film Details:

  • Title: Bananas - 2011
  • Director: Fredrik Gertten
  • DVD Release Date: May 10, 2011.
  • Running Time: 87 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Location: Nicaragua and Los Angeles.
  • Language: Spanish, with English subtitles
  • Distribution Company: Oscilloscope
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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