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The Green Life: Movie Review Friday: Bananas!*

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April 29, 2011

Movie Review Friday: Bananas!*

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film or television event with an environmental theme. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.

Bananas!* (2009)

Limited screenings and available on DVD


Fredrik Gertten’s Bananas!* is highly controversial, having inspired Dole to sue for defamation, libel, and slander. Besides revealing some majorly ugly consequences of food production, it presents a classic David-and-Goliath story (though the ending is not quite as clear) in which a major corporation is the evil giant.

The premise is compelling: A group of banana workers in Nicaragua claim that the pesticide DBCP, which the EPA suspended in 1977 but which Dole continued to use in other countries, caused sterility in workers and even deaths. The resulting Tellez v. Dole case was the first time that agricultural workers from a developing nation were heard in a U.S. court.

Emotional stakes are immediately raised during the opening scene, a bleak funeral procession. And throughout the film, there are heart-wrenching interviews with family members of dead banana workers. But the film becomes most charged when it shows the archival footage of the courtroom battles pitting Juan Dominguez, a charismatic attorney representing the banana workers, against Dole's equally formidable lawyer.

Fortunately for viewers, the film manages to inject shades of gray into what seems to be a pretty straightforward story, namely around the character of Dominguez, an L.A. lawyer who has made a good living representing minorities in his community. He's less the blatant hero than an effective narrative vehicle that makes us question the validity of the case from both sides.

Whether or not you end up rooting for the underdog, Bananas!* is an informative and multifaceted documentary that will make you think twice about, of all things, bananas.

--Shirley Mak

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