Big Boys Gone Bananas!* Fredrik Gertten

Big Boys Gone Bananas!* Fredrik Gertten
Back in 2009, Swedish director Fredrik Gertten's documentary, Bananas (which detailed a lawsuit against Dole for allegedly using banned pesticides on a Nicaraguan plantation, causing sterility in workers), created controversy when it was denied a competition screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Prior to its debut, Dole mailed out a crap-load of threatening cease-and-desist orders, claiming that the film was libellous in its depiction of sleazy accident lawyer Juan Dominguez as an ersatz hero despite a court ruling that he was allegedly a fraudster, coercing false testimonies from Nicaraguans for personal financial and social gain.

Amusingly, no one at Dole bothered to watch the documentary prior to raising a stink and feeding a damaging press release to easily purchased members of the press, attacking the Swedish filmmaker based on assumptions and brand imaging without establishing just how, or if, their brand might be tarnished.

Gertten's follow-up, Big Boys Gone Bananas!*, depicts this experience from his perspective, starting out with the initial Dole attack and following through to the Los Angeles film festival, showing the many letters and tactics used by Dole to suppress his freedom of speech. Within the narrative of this documentation, discussions arise as to the nature of free speech and the motivations of a lucrative motivation in relation to grass roots politicians and bloggers keen on attaching themselves to a hippie-dippy (self-proclaimed) David and Goliath battle.

Unlike Gertten's original controversial film, which suffered from an unfocused, often contradictory structure reliant on contrived melodrama to compensate for a generally grotesque lawyer subject, this documentary actually delivers a sustained and mature tone, despite the obvious slant. If anything, it shows that this legal struggle and subsequent scrutiny have helped shape Gertten into a more respectable filmmaker.

There are still some frustrating assertions about the importance of boycotting a product based on hearsay, with Swedish grocers and fast-food retailers raising a stink about the product when the drama about Bananas was running rampant through their media. And even the glamorized depiction of celebrity involvement at a German Peace festival ignores the ease of sainthood from within a vacuum of lifestyle comfort and ego validation.

Fortunately these idealistic biases are balanced by some of the more amusing and childish tactics taken by Dole. Many of their letters and legal documents feature sarcastic threats like, "good luck with your finances," and actually equate Gertten's shitty and arbitrary documentary to Nazi propaganda.

Ultimately, had the bureaucrats and journalists involved taken an hour to watch the actual film before getting up in arms, they might have seen how pointless the entire debate actually was. Of course, then we wouldn't get to see the hilarity of lawyers and politicians debating the artistic intent of film. (Kinosmith)