What is the impact on freedom of speech and the press when a big corporation attempts to suppress criticism and manipulate the media?
Documentary filmmaker Fredrik Gertten found out when he debuted his previous film, BANANAS!, which portrays the struggle of 12 Nicaraguan plantation workers who brought a lawsuit challenging fruit giant Dole Food’s use of a banned pesticide. Shortly after BANANAS!was selected to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Gertten received an unsettling note that the festival had withdrawn the film from competition. Soonafter, a scathing article about the film appeared in the L.A Business Journal. Within weeks, the filmmaker was embroiled in a major legal and public relations battle with Dole to save their premiere, their film, their reputations, and their freedom of speech.
Corporate efforts to censor criticism gain startling immediacy as Gertten decides to film the whole confrontation with Dole. Eventually, he takes the offensive, filing a countersuit and organizing a media campaign of his own to challenge Dole’s tactics. The resulting film, BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!*, is a dramatic cautionary tale about corporate power and press manipulation, a reminder of the importance of independent film in today’s more timid media world, and a case study of how individuals can fight back to protect freedom of speech and encourage a truly free press. The film would be useful in a variety of classes, including journalism, film, law, business, ethics and environmental policy.
Reviews & Awards"Starred Review. What initially seems like a straightforward account of a big American company versus a filmmaker turns into a question of the ethics of public relations and professional journalism. Ultimately, we see how corporate America influences information that the public receives and that companies can become bullies. Chilling and worthy of follow-up discussion."
–Booklist / ALA
"Recommended. Engaging.... addresses the immense power of monied multinationals and their armies of attorneys, PR flacks, and bought-off/beaten-down media flunkies to control and spin negative information. "
- Video Librarian
“A provocative look at what can happen when corporate power takes aim at independent film. Documenting the vigorous strategies employed by the Dole Food Company to block the release of his film Bananas!— the Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten gains traction by taking the high road.“
–New York Times
"Big Boys is an eye-opening look at the way the U.S. media fell lockstep behind Dole's claims. The film remains a chilling look at the brave new field of strategic communication, which employs not just marketing experts but covert operatives to protect brands. As one specialist observes, we live in ‘an era of extreme reputation anxiety.’”
– Los Angeles Times
"A David-and Goliath story that delves into corporate scare tactics, legal effrontery, brand protection, media manipulation, online propagandizing and craven behavior"
"Fredrik Gertten's sobering and insightful Big Boys Gone Bananas!* should be compulsory viewing for any wannabe documentary filmmaker embarking on their investigative opus without a fear in the world."
– SCREEN DAILY
"Highly Recommended. A wildly unique tale of the irrepressible volition of the filmmakers in the face of brutish corporate power and media manipulation. Gripping and heartfelt... rivals any fictional drama that Hollywood or others may offer. This is not just a simple case of an assault on freedom of speech, it is a troubling revelation of the extent of potential Internet manipulation and coercion by corporate power."
– Educational Media Reviews Online