Bananas!* (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/04/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 80 mins

Gripping, well made eco-doc that tells an all-too familiar story of giant corporations riding roughshod over third world countries – the David vs Goliath court case is genuinely gripping but some questions are left frustratingly unanswered.

What's it all about?
Directed by Swedish film-maker Fredrik Gertten, Bananas!* (nobody seems to know what the asterisk is for) is the latest in a line of recent crusading eco-docs, this one centring on a class action suit being brought against the Dole Food Company by Nicaraguan banana workers for knowingly exposing them to dangerous pesticides that have left many of the men impotent or seriously ill. Championing their cause is self-confessed ambulance chaser Juan Jose Dominguez, a personal injury lawyer who encourages the workers to pursue a lawsuit and brings small groups to trial, aided by his secret weapon, hotshot courtroom lawyer Duane Miller.

The Good
Gertten presents his case clearly and firmly, using archive footage and to-camera interviews with the banana workers themselves. The shocking truth, casually admitted in court by senior Dole executive Bob DeLorenzo, is that the chemical Nemagon (DBCP) was banned in the US and withdrawn by Dow Chemical, yet Dole continued to use it on their Nicaraguan banana plantations, even going so far as to demand that Dow provide them with more supplies.

The David vs Goliath court case is genuinely gripping and Dominguez and Miller emerge as genuine heroes: Miller's modest reaction on returning to the office post-verdict is one of several highlights.

The Bad
However, the film also subtly points out that Dominguez is not exactly a saint – he's shown charging around LA in his expensive sports car and flaunting his obvious wealth in a way that's uncomfortable to watch. Similarly, there are a few occasions in the film where some fairly big questions go frustratingly unanswered, such as why did Dominguez and Miller put some of their witnesses on the stand if they knew that they'd changed their testimonies?

It's also fair to say that there's an equally fascinating story behind the making and eventual release of the film – a swift Google of the names involved reveals that the Dole Corporation tried to have the film suppressed, alleging that Dominguez had falsified evidence.

Worth seeing?
This is a well made eco-doc that's gripping, rage-inducing, heart-breaking and heart-warming but also frustrating in equal measure. Worth seeing.

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Bananas!* (12A)
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Content updated: 14/12/2017 09:44

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