Amongst the skyless summits of capitalist bureaucracy flutters creativity that no company can overturn. Big Boys Gone Bananas!* (2011), Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten’s follow-up to Gertten’s heinously underplayed Bananas!* (2009), documents the process of refusing to lie down and be trampled over by dirty money, dirty smear campaigns and some of the dirtiest men ever to regard themselves as humans.
In Bananas!*, Gertten followed the plight of twelve Nicaraguan banana pickers revolting against one of the world’s heavyweight food giants, Dole Food Industries, over alleged cases of sterility caused by an illegal pesticide. The film was regarded as a minor triumph for ‘the little people’ involved and was consequently set to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival. However, prior to this Bananas!* debut, Dole bared its fiscal gnashers and threatened to sue Gertten and his stoic team of four for defamation.
Enter Big Boys Gone Bananas!*, one of the most politically-candid documentaries ever to counter-attack the hegemonic tyranny of the masses. From the first postal correspondence to the final emails, the film engages with a lawsuit that not only would have decimated Gertten’s reputation as a vanguard of free speech, but would have remained an unyielding stain on independent cinema’s ability to speak on behalf of the forgotten. The court case would have seen far greater than a financial slap on the wrist for Gertten, who remains collected yet beleaguered throughout the process.
By remaining the centre of attention, our sympathies stem further than the general distribution of his films, but for Gertten himself; the confused, haggard film journalist with good intentions thwarted by Dole’s belligerence. Big Boys Gone Bananas!*, whilst perceivable as a tad narcissistic on the Gertten front, undeniably touches on subject matters of unavoidable importance. On one side there’s the lawsuit and the right to free speech. On the other there’s the current state of our media system and modern journalism’s suspect intentions to occasionally worm out falsehoods from facts.
Unfortunately for Gertten, Big Boys Gone Bananas!* merely acts as a single stitch in the media industry’s gaping wounds inflicted by high-flying corporate powers. In one discomforting scene, Gertten has to force one of the LA Film Festival’s organisers to read a statement that dismisses the movie as a ‘case study’ rather than a documentary, proving we have a very long way to go before our freedom of speech won’t cost.