In a few days, BANANAS!* director Fredrik Gertten is flying from Sweden to Los Angeles to face Dole in court. One year has passed since Gertten, producer Margarete Jangård and their company WG Film got sued by Dole for screening the film in Los Angeles.
Q: What are going through your head, one year after Dole attacked your film and one week before your day in court?
A: I am looking forward to leave all this behind us. I have now consumed a lifetime use of lawyers. I have learnt a lot, it has been stressful but also very interesting. Now I would like to move forward. To the next project. And maybe some holidays.
Q: Didn’t Dole drop the lawsuit against you and BANANAS!*, why are you going to a court hearing?
A: Yes, Dole dropped the lawsuit, but our counterclaim, the so-called SLAPP motion will now have its day in court. The hearing is reduced to fight over lawyers fees and if we win the money will not reach us. It’s for the insurance company and our lawyers. But it is important for all filmmakers and journalists that the judge comes out with a clear verdict: DOLE did wrong. Suing a filmmaker is an attack of freedom of speech and press, the very fundament of the bill of rights and the first amendment. Democracy needs free press and documentary filmmakers. Hopefully the judge will make the same conclusion.
Q: Why do you have to be there in person?
A: I don’t need to. It’s all a matter between lawyers. But if I can make it I would love to.
Q: What are your chances? Do you think the Judge will make Dole pay your legal fees?
A: I think the judge will understand how uneven this fight has been. Our lawyers fees have exceeded 300 000 dollars. It is not possible for a small production company to defend it self when it is so expensive. Many filmmakers would give up without even trying. The judge only needs to see the film once to understand that DOLE was wrong. But I prefer of course that he also reads our SLAPP motion. It is a very good piece of work and will make anyone understand that DOLE has nothing more than tons of words.
Q: What is your dream scenario?
A: If we are successful, the Judge will tell Dole that they were wrong and made a mistake. This would be an important victory for us. Not financially, but in principle. A court order saying that Dole made a mistake would prove what we’ve been saying for a year now, and a victory in a Californian court room would be a victory on Dole’s home ground.
Q: Will this hearing be a part of a long legal process, or is this it?
A: I am no expert. It can be the end. But as always there’s a possibility of appeals. It can go on for years.
Q: You are also doing a “special screening” of BANANAS!* the night before the court hearing, what makes it special?
A: I will be there to answer questions, and so will our excellent attorney, Lincoln Bandlow. One year later after the turmoil at last year’s LA Film Festival, I am glad that the public can see the film that Dole didn’t want anyone to see. We are pleased that our US distributor Oscilloscope is screening this film for the public at this time before the DVD comes out, so that everyone can see for themselves. With Chevron coming on down on my fellow filmmaker Joe Berlinger for his film CRUDE and Dole suing us for BANANAS!*, it’s become even more difficult for documentary filmmakers to defend ourselves and continue to make nonfiction stories about those who have been wronged. Despite all of Dole’s effort to halt our film, to date we have screened at over 50 festivals worldwide and sold the film to over 10 countries for television and theatrical exhibition.
Q: Finally, will there be time for a drink at the beach?
A: If not a drink, a swim. My 13 year old son will travel with me, so I am doing my best to enjoy life. It’s a privilege to be a documentary filmmaker. And a father.
The special screening of BANANAS!* will take place at the Downtown Independent Theatre on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 7PM and 9PM. The theatre is located on 251 Main Street in downtown Los Angeles, CA 90012.