Big Boys Gone Bananas*!

A David-and Goliath story that delves into corporate scare tactics, legal effrontery, brand protection, media manipulation, online propagandizing and craven behavior.

With: Alex Rivera, Bart Simpson, Charlotte Lundgren, Dan Koeppel, David Magdael, Dawn Hudson, Fredrik Gertten, Margarete Jangard. (English, Swedish, Spanish dialogue)

A David-and Goliath story that delves into corporate scare tactics, legal effrontery, brand protection, media manipulation, online propagandizing and craven behavior, “Big Boys Gone Bananas!*” relates the story of Fredrik Gertten and the persecution of his 2009 film “Bananas!*” by Dole Foods. Crazy title and urgent message will likely get auds to forgive Gertten’s occasionally self-congratulatory tone and failure to mine the obvious humor in his own ordeal; proximity to U.S. elections will make the docu particularly pertinent, especially for politically minded viewers.

In 2009, Gertten, a Swede, brought his expose, “Bananas*” — about a lawsuit brought by workers against Dole for its use of banned pesticides in Nicaragua — to the Los Angeles Film Festival and, according to the current docu, watched objective journalism and moral courage dissolve before his eyes. After Dole claimed the movie was defamatory and threatened to sue, the festival took “Bananas*” out of competition. A cover story in the Los Angeles Business Journal toed the Dole line, as did public radio station KCRW and other L.A.-based media outlets, deriding the film without having seen it, according to “Big Boys.” UCLA law professor David Ginsburg wrote a supporting document for Dole that compared “Bananas*” to anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda. The festival finally agreed to screen the docu, but only after then-festival director Dawn Hudson read a statement that essentially threw the movie under a bus.

Gertten doesn’t present himself as an anti-corporate crusader: Being in the crosshairs of a multinational company left him at risk, based on what he could lose personally, with “Bananas!*” trapped in litigation limbo. “Big Boys” asks why the media took Dole’s side. Although their testimony sometimes causes the eyes to glaze over, various American and Swedish journalists, PR experts and Web-based propagandists line up and weigh in on exactly how a company like Dole gets others — including journalists, professors and festival boards — to do their dirty work.

What is shaping up as a losing proposition for Gertten is turned around only because Swedish parliamentarians on both sides of the aisle are so outraged by an American company’s attempt to quash a Swedish film that they take bipartisan umbrage. A burger chain in Sweden stops selling Dole products. A supermarket chain drops them, too. Individual consumers use their economic clout to force a corporation to act like a human being. The lasting legacy of “Big Boys Gone Bananas!*” may be that viewers never look the same way again at online reviews, business journalism or purportedly objective chat.

Tech credits are perfectly adequate.

Popular on Variety

Big Boys Gone Bananas*!


Production: A WG Films presentation in association with SVT and Film i Skane. (International sales: Autlook, Vienna.) Produced by Margarete Jangard. Executive producer, Fredrik Gertten. Directed by Fredrik Gertten.

Crew: Camera (color), Frank Pineda, Gabriel Noguez, Jason Wawro, Joakim Demmer, Joseph Aguirre, Kiki Allgeier, Malin Korkeasalo, Sasha Snow, Stefan Berg, Anna Sivertsson, Basia Winograd, Christian Sparkes, Desh Ferando, Devin Doyle, Doug Gritzmacher, Einar Arnason, Emma Svensson, Terese Mornvik, Tobias Lilja, Tomas Kurkinas, Tomas Ramanauskas; editors, Jesper Osmund, Benjamin Binderup; music, Conny Malmqvist, Dan "Gisen" Malmquist; sound, Bart Simpson, Ebbe Gertten, Emma Svensson; sound designer, Alexander Thornqvist; line producer, Jade Fox. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema -- competing), Jan. 20, 2012. Running time: 89 MIN.

Cast: With: Alex Rivera, Bart Simpson, Charlotte Lundgren, Dan Koeppel, David Magdael, Dawn Hudson, Fredrik Gertten, Margarete Jangard. (English, Swedish, Spanish dialogue)

More Scene

  • US record producer The-Dream arrives for

    Top Music Publishers Come Together for Songs of Hope Honors

    The 15th annual Songs of Hope honors united songwriters, music industry insiders and more than a few preeminent doctors at producer Alex Da Kid’s Sherman Oaks compound on Thursday night. Jimmy Jam returned to host the event, which served as a fundraiser for the ever-vital City of Hope medical treatment center as well as a [...]

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Keke Palmer BlogHer19 Summit

    Keke Palmer Brought to Tears Accepting Truth Teller Award at #BlogHer19 Creators Summit

    Keke Palmer stood surprised and wide-mouthed on the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit stage as she was presented with the Truth Teller Award for her recent acting work — and her viral “sorry to this man” clip. “This means so much,” the multi-hyphenated star softly whispered as she got teary-eyed upon accepting the award. Last week, the [...]


    Emmys 2019: Inside All the Hottest Pre-Parties

    It’s (Emmys) party time! Before the 71st annual Emmys go live on Sunday, stars and execs are keeping busy by party-hopping in the days leading up to the big show. Here, Variety gives you the inside details on who was where and what they were doing. Keep checking back right here throughout the weekend for [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez Green Dress

    Jennifer Lopez Closes Out Versace Show in Famous Green Grammys Dress

    Jennifer Lopez has found her way back into the Versace dress that broke the internet in 2000. The “Hustlers” star closed out Versace’s Spring 2020 show in a re-worked version of the revealing, bright green silk chiffon dress that she wore to the Grammy Awards 20 years ago. The dress quickly became a pop-culture phenomenon, [...]

  • 10 Storytellers to Watch

    Variety Celebrates Inaugural 10 Storytellers to Watch Event

    Storytellers from across the spectrum of entertainment — film, literature, podcasting and play writing — were honored Thursday at Variety’s inaugural 10 Storytellers to Watch luncheon at Gramercy Park Hotel, hosted with partner the Independent Filmmaker Project and presented by Audible. Honorees Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of “Friday Black”; “Limetown” podcasters Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie; [...]

  • Demi Moore Corporate Animals

    Demi Moore Teases Upcoming Memoir 'Inside Out,' Talks 'Corporate Animals' Team Bonding

    As Demi Moore gears up for the Sept. 24 release of her autobiography “Inside Out,” the actress says she feels like a weight has been lifted. “Even the stuff that I may have been nervous about is completely lifting…because it’s a process,” Moore told Variety at the premiere of her upcoming film “Corporate Animals” at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content