Big Boys Gone Bananas!*
- Posted: 21st Sep 2012
- Category: Reviews
- Tags: robyn johnston,  bananas,  fredrik gertten,  dogwoof,  feature,  theatrical
by Robyn Johnston
Not to be confused with Fredrik Gertten’s 2009 documentary Bananas!*, this sequel from the Swedish filmmaker traces the spectacular fallout from the first film. Big Boys Gone Bananas!* documents the Swedish protagonist's refusal to lie down and be crushed by fat cats Dole and their multi-million dollar entourage. It’s a revised David vs. Goliath parable with the modern complexities of media propagandizing and manipulation.
For those of us who haven’t seen Bananas!* a quick synopsis is necessary: Gertten’s prequel focussed on a lawsuit brought against Dole Food Company by 10,000 Nicaraguan banana workers due to detrimental effects of a pesticide. What could possibly be another humanitarian documentary falling into the genre abyss of indigenous workers good; big corporations bad and thus lost into documentary oblivion, becomes memorable thanks to the events that happened after the film was produced.
This sequel begins at the Los Angeles Film Festival where Bananas!* is scheduled to make its world premiere. Things quickly begin to sour when Dole Food Company beats its chest and begins a corporate bullying campaign. It is shocking yet fascinating to watch as Gertten’s documentary is slowly ghettoised as the festival tries to cut ties in order to protect itself from Dole’s impending threats.
Big Boys… depicts the outrageous behaviour of a multi-billion dollar company and the extensive resources they have to crush independent filmmakers merely trying to document a story. Perhaps more frightening is the power these multi-billion dollar companies have over the American journalists who Gertten depicts in the second half of his film. It begins online, with ‘’astroturfing’’, not of the synthetic grass kind, but of the intentional effort to promote ‘’grassroots’’ artificially kind. Internet forums and comment threads provide a golden opportunity for giant corporations to plant ‘independent’ opinions supposedly posted by disinterested members of the public. Seemingly propagandized YouTube comments on the trailer for Bananas!* and the unusual placements of Dole adverts on the filmmaker’s Linkedin profile create an uneasy Big Brother-type feeling to Gertten’s predicament. This online bias quickly escalates into television, with reporters unashamedly transmitting a one-sided view which again highlights the unlimited parameters of Dole.
Freedom of Speech and media manipulation play as major themes in the narrative which subsequently creates an unexpected irony throughout the entire documentary. It is obviously impossible to remain objective about a situation if you are on the receiving end of a terrifying and unjust litigation deluge whilst also creating a documentary about the circumstances. Herein lies the flaw and perhaps Gertten should have let someone else take the wheel and create a more impartial film.
Big Boys Gone Bananas!* obviously addresses the gross misconduct by food giant Dole. There is no question that the campaign they led against Fredrik Gertten’s film was malicious and would have been incredibly detrimental to documentary makers the world over due to the fear it would have instilled in the field. Yet by coercing the viewer into an empathetic slant he ultimately detracts from the story he is trying to tell.
Dir. Fredrik Gertten, 2011
In UK cinemas from 21st September
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