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Banana-gate

Fredrik Gertten was sued by Dole for his documentary Bananas!*. Now he’s back with a thriller-like documentary that reveals what happened after the lawsuit.

Big Boys Gone Bananas

Big Boys Gone Bananas

Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten was ballsy enough to make a film, Bananas!*, that inspired Dole Foods to sue him. And then he was crazy (brave?) enough to then make a whole other film about what it was like being sued by Dole.

That second film, Big Boys Gone Bananas, has just had its world premiere at IDFA. And so far nobody from Dole is feeling litigious, Gertten says, although he doesn’t know if they’ve seen this one yet.

The saga started when Gertten made the 2009 documentary Bananas!*, which was about the lawsuit that Nicraraguan workers brought against the food giant over side effects from pesticides.

Before the film could even have its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Dole issued the director and his three colleagues with a cease and desist letter to stop the film’s premiere. They put pressure on LAFF and its big sponsors, and LAFF eventually demoted the film to screen out of competition and with a hefty Dole-friendly disclaimer read out before the screening.

Several days later, Dole officially sued Gertten and his team. And he had the foresight to record everything that ensued.

The new documentary feels like a corporate thriller, as Dole, a company that makes $7bn per year, takes on the struggling Swedish production outfit WG Films. [I won’t offer any spoilers to how this thriller ends.] It’s a powerful film for anyone interested in freedom of speech in the 21st century, the influence of multinational corporations [hello, Occupy Wall Street!], and the struggles facing independent filmmakers.

“Our job [as filmmakers] is to look for the cracks in the facades of anyone in power,” the filmmaker told a packed screening at IDFA on Wednesday night. “That’s our role in democracy. A film like Bananas!* and many other films here at IDFA have a role in changing society.”

Gertten was also collecting supporters’ emails at the screening. He said: “When you fight mighty people, you need friends.”

And remember, real friends buy fairtrade bananas.

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