A few years ago Gertten made a film about the successful use of illegal pesticides by giant fruit producer Dole in Nicaragua and the affects these pesticides had on the workers at the plant. When he submitted the film, entitled Bananas, to the Los Angeles Film Festival, all hell broke loose. Dole threatened to sue everybody that was involved in the production, possible staging or reviewing of the film, while in the meantime starting a clever PR attack making out the film was a complete fraud. Lucky for us, Gertten was just a tat more clever and started filming all the events that unfolded. The result is a documentary outlining his fight for the basic right of freedom of speech, packed full with the most remarkable twists and turns and a lot of thrilling action.
Having just seen Shadows of Liberty, a film which very clearly outlines the dangers of an unregulated and highly sponsored corporate media landscape, Big Boys Gone Bananas is a rather scary film, showing exactly those practices that we do not wish to see in a free democratic society.
Information is power, the power to act in favour of that in which we belief and against those practices we oppose. But what if we are fed false information, what if we are not informed at all? This would mean we are nothing but mere string puppets in the hands of those with power, be it governmental or corporate.
Gertten’s previous film Bananas!* recounts the lawsuit that 12 Nicaraguan plantation workers successfully brought against the fruit giant Dole Food Company. As said, upon completion it was selected by the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival to compete for an award, but a few weeks later the festival took the film out of competition after Dole labelled it a fraud. And when the next day a totally misinformed, one-sided article appeared in the Los Angeles Business Journal about the documentary Gertten and his team understand that there is more behind this than meets the eye. Indeed, soon this becomes very apparent when Gertten is nearly bullied in giving up on his film.
Though of course it is illegal, money talks. And that money also needs to be protected, at all costs funnily enough. With the, what can justifiably be called, ‘terror campaign’ Dole just outlines what a big corporation is capable of doing in order to protect its brand; from defamation lawsuits, utilizing scare tactics, to media-control and PR-spin. But, as Dole’s public relations company puts it so eloquently: “It is easier to cope with a bad conscience than a bad reputation.”
A Preview screening of the film will take place on Tuesday 18th September 6.30pm at the Prince Charles Cinema in London – to be followed by a panel discussion about the issues raised in the film, hosted by Jen Robinson (lawyer for Wikileaks and Head of Legal Advocacy at the Bertha Foundation). Tickets are on sale here.