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Big Boys Gone Bananas!* Review

By David Kempler

On the Dole

What happens when a filmmaker can't get his film seen by anyone because of corporate pressures? In the case of "Bananas!" - no, not the Woody Allen classic - Swedish director Fredrik Gertten responds by churning out another documentary about what is going on with his original film. This second documentary, "Big Boys Gone Bananas!*", tells us exactly what the gigantic food company, Dole, has done to shut down his first production. The result is an amazing journey through what extraordinary powers a large corporation can exert upon any one of us.

The original film, "Bananas!", documents the plight of Dole farm workers who, after being exposed to illegal pesticides, experience sterility and a wealth of other physical ailments. The workers ending up suing Dole and actually winning a settlement. Gertten chronicled the plight of the workers and it was slated to air at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Right before the festival, Dole blanketed the director and the Los Angeles Film Festival with mounds of legal papers designed to prevent the doc from ever seeing the darkness of a screening room. Their pressure succeeded.

At this point, the project seemed DOA, but it all blew up when a blogger in Sweden posted a story on the Internet about it. Even though it never became a big story in America, it caught on like wildfire in Sweden. In an unprecedented set of circumstances, both of the major political parties united behind Gertten, calling it a freedom of speech issue. Dole still didn't care all that much, until stores in Sweden started removing Dole products from their shelves. All of a sudden, Dole cared, and they cared a lot. Overnight, the lawsuits against Gertten disappeared and Dole started talking about how much they respect freedom of speech.

Everything about "Big Boys Gone Bananas!*" screams that if we can come up with a strategy that hits corporations in the wallet, we can accomplish something as citizens. It's a story of hope that unfortunately has no counterparts that I am aware of in the United States. It's sad that America has to be taught a lesson about free speech by Sweden or anyone else, yet it does provide a sliver of hope.

"Big Boys Gone Bananas!*" works because there is meat on the bone to sink your teeth into, combined with the strength and quiet determination displayed by Mr. Gertten. It's not a thrill ride and it's not the most exciting thing you will ever see but it will give you pause, making you wonder what exactly our way of life has become here and where it is headed. On a side note, you might want to check into what is in the bananas you are currently eating.

What did you think?

Movie title Big Boys Gone Bananas!*
Release year 2011
MPAA Rating NR
Our rating
Summary Documentary about a documentary that was prevented from airing because of the pressure from a corporation, teaches Americans a lesson about freedom of speech.
View all articles by David Kempler
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