Editor’s note: This film is no longer available online.
“Bananas!*” follows Juan Dominguez, a lawyer from a small law firm in the US, in a legal battle against Dole Food Company, the world’s largest fruit producer.
Dominguez represents a group of Nicaraguans who claimed they were afflicted by a pesticide used in banana farms.
After the film was finished, Swedish documentary filmmaker Fredrik Gertten made a follow-up film, “Big boys gone bananas!*”, which tells of his own legal battle with the global corporation.
By Fredrik Gertten
My dream as a filmmaker is to create a piece of work that can travel into the hearts and minds of the audience.
For me, it is what’s between the lines that matters the most in telling the story.
Through my film I am hopeful that viewers will see the lives of the workers who are at risk; the people who are paying the price of a 100 years of banana history.
These are the workers, the families and the communities who are suffering from poverty and from the disaster of the chemicals left on their soil and floating in their water.
I also wanted to tell the human story – one that moves the audience with a strong narrative arc.
As a filmmaker, I believe in complexity and in characters that make you feel something or sometimes just make you wonder.
Juan Dominguez, the attorney for the banana workers, is a great character. He has much at stake. He also bridges the locations of the story, from the poverty-laden banana plantation communities in Chinandega, Nicaragua, to the wealthy and corporate Los Angeles, California, in the US.
“Bananas!*” follows a landmark court case in Los Angeles Superior Court and ends with the verdict from the jury. That verdict, however, is still under appeal.
In April 2009, Judge Chaney, who presided over the plantation workers’ case, decided to kick out the cases represented by Dominguez.
This happened after the film was finished. Because of this new development, we decided to make a change with updated title cards at the film’s end, reflecting Judge Chaney’s rulings.
So far, Dominguez has not been formally charged with anything. So basically, nothing has changed and everything remains status quo.
Then on May 8, 2009, Dole Foods wrote their first “cease and desist” letter to me, my producer, our production company and to the Los Angeles Film Festival. Suddenly we, the filmmakers, became a part of our own film. We were transformed into the role of David and Goliath – the underdog battling the corporate Dole Food company. This legal battle continued for more than five months.
Dole Foods filed a defamation lawsuit against us on July 8, 2009. We were forced to expend a painfully large amount of money and time to defend ourselves from these wrongful accusations. We continued in our fight against Dole and to gather support from around the globe and in our home country of Sweden.
Then on October 15, 2009, we prevailed, as Dole Food withdrew this unjustified lawsuit. And now, this film can continue to be seen by all without the threat of legal action looming over it.
I am pleased that we can share “Bananas!*” with you.