An Essential Documentary Sequel -- And Hard Earned Vindication
Following the release in 2009 of Bananas!*, a documentary that chronicled the lawsuit that was brought by Nicaraguan banana workers against their employer, the Dole Corporation, for knowingly using dangerous pesticides that caused workers a wide rage of health issues, the international fruit company not only tried to keep the film from public view at various festival screenings and other venues, it also sued Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten, who'd directed the film.
Finding his film and himself under attack, Gertten picked up his camera and began documenting the entire affair. As a result, there's now a strong and entirely credible sequel to Bananas!*.
Big Boys Gone Bananas!* not only further authenticates and underscores the information and case presented in the first film, it also reveals the lengths to which powerful corporations -- Dole, in this instance -- will go to manipulate and control public opinion and obfuscate issues brought to light in documentary films.
Documentaries Under Corporate Attack
The whole Bananas!* business is a replay, in some ways, of the assault that documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger faced from Exxon following the release of Crude, which was also about the lawsuit brought against the oil company by Amazonian indigenous peoples whose tribes were being wiped out by drilling-related toxic waste that had polluted their home turf and water supply.
The filmmakers' defense of both films press for first amendment rights. However, the situations differ not only in the specific nature of the lawsuits brought against the filmmakers.
Support From Local Government and Movie Goers
Gertten, with the help of staunch supporters in Sweden who began boycotting Dole produce, was able to effectively counter Dole. Of course, this is something filmmakers don't want to be pushed to. They want to make films, not fight legal battles. However, it's very good that Gertten set about making the second film. Actually, Big Boys Gone Bananas!* Gertten's long awaited vindication, as well as that of the original film -- which undoubted provides a good measure of satisfaction for all who were engaged in making of both or either Bananas!* films, and delivers an even larger dose of inspiration for any documentarian or whistle blower who might otherwise have interpreted what happened after the release of Bananas!* as a cautionary tale -- especially noting at the first film ends on a down note, reflecting what often happens in court cases in real life. With the sequel ending in a big win for the good guys -- and that, by the way isn't a spoiler because this case has been widely reported in the news and you could easily have heard about the its outcome from ongoing news reports -- people who might otherwise be afraid to point their fingers -- or cameras -- at wrong doing may be encouraged to do so.
Knowing the outcome of the film doesn't in the least diminish its drama. In the documentary, the steady build of tension reflects the ongoing anxieties and frustration of the people whose lives were being adversely impacted by Dole's attack strategy.
The Bottom Line and Keeping Focus
But beyond the gripping drama surrounding the court cases it covers, the most important thing about the sequel is that it clearly shifts public focus back to the real and pressing issues raised in both the first film and it -- and that would be that Dole is spraying pesticides that they know are hazardous and have been shown to cause serious health issues and/or death to workers who are exposed to their toxicity while wording at the company's plantations. That is the real message of the films, and it is now clearly back in play.
This courageous, smartly researched and edited issue-oriented film will certainly successfully provoke thought and stimulate public debate and, in doing so, fulfill an essential function and fundamental promise of nonfiction film.
If You Like This Film, You May Also Like:
- Title: Big Boys Gone Bananas!* - 2011
- Director: Fredrik Gertten
- US Theatrical Release Date: July, 27, 2012 in New York City
- Running Time: 90 mins.
- MPAA Rating: Not Rated
- Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
- Filming Locations: Berlin, Iceland, Los Angeles, New York City, Washington DC, Toronto, Malmö, Stockholm, Vilnius
- Language: English and Swedish with English subtitles
- Production Country: Sweden/Denmark/Germany/USA/UK
- Production Company: WG Film
- Official Trailer
- Official Website