In 2009, Swedish documentary filmmaker Fredrik Gertten released his film "Bananas!*", telling the story of a lawsuit brought by 12 Nicaraguans against the multinational Dole Food Company.
But before it was due to premiere at a Los Angeles film festival, the company filed a lawsuit against Gertten and his company for defamation.
What follows is a compelling, personal story that Gertten captured on film about his legal battle, and the fight to save his livelihood and reputation by fighting for freedom of speech.
By Fredrik Gertten
"Big boys gone bananas!*" was a film I needed to make. Being sued by a multi-national corporate giant like Dole Foods is no PR-stunt and is no fun. But it is interesting. You learn a lot and if you survive you certainly have a story to tell.
I have worked as a journalist and filmmaker for 25 years now. And the experience of being the subject of an attack from a major corporation such as this gave me a deeper understanding of society and media.
In "Big boys gone bananas!*", I am trying to understand how Dole Foods did what they did.
The questions kept arising: How was Dole Foods so successful in the US in controlling the story in the media and blocking the film for almost two years?
The film is also about corporate scare tactics and instilling fear in the little guys. How do people react when they feel the raw forces of money and power against them?
In my situation, some people tried to distance themselves from us and left us alone to fight this battle. Perhaps they believed Dole had a point, or maybe it was just a battle they could not afford to take on.
But we were fortunate that there were those who showed passion and solidarity with us.
For example, each of the European broadcasters involved in showing "Bananas!*" decided to broadcast the film regardless of the fact that we had a lawsuit pending in the US. That was a good feeling. In Sweden consumers and activists pushed the supermarkets to boycott Dole Foods. The boycott actually did not happen, but the supermarkets demanded that Dole withdraw the lawsuit.
Today, independent documentary films are more important than ever. These films are the last bastions of truth telling. Traditional media outlets have less money for investigative reporting and many are owned by corporate entities that have an influence on the news and its presentation and distribution. All of which means that documentary filmmakers have an even harder job to seek the truth and will continue to meet more opposition, as we continue to tell these stories of corporations doing bad things.
There is no doubt that what we experienced in making "Bananas!*" and what is documented in this current film "Big boys gone bananas!*" will not stop.
I hope that "Big boys gone bananas!*" will open up a debate on what and how the powerful corporations do, and are able to do, by way of controlling the media and instilling fear among the little people. Going through this experience always made me wonder: How free is freedom of speech, and how free is freedom of press?
We need to keep making our films and telling these stories.
Source: Al Jazeera