Bananas! (note both the exclamation mark and the asterisk in the title) recounts a David-versus-Goliath legal battle, which has strong echoes of Joe Berlinger’s recently released Crude. Here, a dozen Nicaraguan banana plantation workers launch a class action lawsuit against the giant multinational corporation Dole Food. In the landmark case, the plaintiffs argue that the company’s use of the pesticide DBCP, dating back to the 1970s, has rendered them sterile.
Swedish director Fredrik Gertten draws on footage shot in a 1982 Nicaraguan documentary Bananeras, which highlights the appalling conditions endured by plantation labourers. He also benefits from a charismatic protagonist in the form of the cigar-smoking, Ferrari-driving Juan Dominguez, who’s the Cuban-born, Los Angeles-based lawyer representing the underdogs. It’s a pity, however, that the film can’t incorporate the ongoing developments in the proceedings, since shooting was completed. Dole took out and then withdrew a lawsuit against the filmmaker, and charges of fraud have also been levelled at Dominguez. The crucial moment in the film shouldn’t be forgotten, however: a senior Dole executive admits on the witness stand that despite DBCP being banned in California in 1977 on health grounds, the company continued to use the pesticide in South America. This release is supported by global action cinema project Take One Action and there will be an audience discussion after the opening screening.
Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Mon 7-Thu 10 Jun.