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Review: Big Boys Gone Bananas!

August 9, 2012

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia

Everyone loves a good story when the underdogs triumph over the big boys. It’s a popular topic among many documentaries, but what makes Big Boys Gone Bananas! especially entertaining is the first-person narrative by the director himself, Fredrik Gertten. Of course, we don’t love anything more than watching another corporate American scandal face the world with shaking heads.

Big Boys Gone Bananas! is a perfect example of how easily journalism can come under threat. Not only did Dole Foods come at Gertten with a lawsuit about false information, the company made sure to get press siding with their argument from every major publication. But the most ridiculous part was the fact that none of these journalists or the members of Dole Foods Company had ever even seen the movie. I’ll admit to being guilty of regurgitating a press release, but we get into a serious conflict of authenticity when journalists are attacking Gertten for wanting to release a movie that contains false information.

One of the most disconcerting scenes in the film sees Gertten premiering his film at the LA Film Festival and the lawyers representing Dole Foods appearing with their fat chunks of paper. Other people in attendance comment on the tension and the general weirdness of the whole situation. The lengths Dole Foods go to challenging Gertten just shows that a company will stop at nothing to retain its reputation. Dole’s PR says it perfectly: “It is easier to cope with a bad conscience than a bad reputation.” There are a series of Skype conversations and meet-ups that make Gertten’s fight look inevitably inferior to the wrath of Dole Foods, but Gertten stops at nothing to strike a change. His persistence is admirable and you can see the anguish he feels for wanting to continue to fight when most of his team mates are ready to throw in the towel.

Eventually, Dole Foods withdraw the lawsuit after a bunch of bloggers in Sweden help convince food stores to stop selling Dole products and Gertten fights back calling for freedom of speech. I understand that exposing an injustice done to yourself could prove more powerful than an injustice done to other people, but Gertten might have gotten a little carried away with the ‘Boycott Dole’ parade. The latter half of the film felt more like an angry streak of vengeance than a well-deserved victory speech. Nonetheless, this is a story that needs to be told over and over again to remind us that we still have a voice, no matter how small.

Amanda Chen.

Big Boys Gone Bananas! is released 21st September  in the UK.