Swedish documentarian Fredrick Gertten made a film called BANANAS!* about a group of Nicaraguan plantation workers who sued Dole over unsafe working conditions. Eventually, those workers won their case but there was another battle already in the works. Unhappy with how they would be portrayed in Gertten’s documentary (even though, according to BBGB!*, no Dole representatives had seen their film), Dole launched a gigantic legal and PR-based attack towards the filmmakers and anyone who would dare screen the film.
BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!* is a look into the lengths that a corporation, with pockets as deep as Dole, will go to in an effort to keep their name clean. But it’s really a look at the struggle which Gertten had to go through in order to protect his art. Issues of free speech, libel, and censorship are raised throughout the film, but unfortunately, the film never elevates to bigger-picture view of those issues.
This is a missed opportunity because the narrative here is interesting and would make a great vehicle to discuss these issues. Instead, the film remains small, circling around one side of a specific conflict without spending much time discussing the opposition’s motives or even the validity of the first film’s claims.
There are points in BBGB!* where Dole’s claims of misrepresentation and libel are disregarded as just another example of the big, bad corporation picking on the poor, little Swedish filmmakers but one can’t help but wonder if those poor, little documentarians weren’t the ones in the wrong, thus, tinting the entire viewing experience of this film… and they were both made by the same person.
Gertten spends his second banana film defending his first banana film without offering enough factual information to really defend either. And while the issues of censorship, media control, and free speech should most likely take precedence over whether an anti-Dole documentary’s accuracy, in this case, it’s distracting and takes away from Gertten’s efforts.