July 9, 2009 - Late Wednesday afternoon, Fredrik Gertten, Margarete Jangard and WG Film, the filmmaker and producers of the documentary feature film, BANANAS!* were sued by Dole Food Company, Inc. for the screening of the film. The lawsuit claims that the film BANANAS!* – a court room documentary – is defamatory and false toward Dole Food Corporation.
Through their lawyer, Richard J. Lee, Esq. of Lee and Lawless, the filmmakers and WG Film issued a statement. Richard J. Lee said today:
"My clients and I believe that this suit is without merit and represents the latest in a continued line of intimidating harassment by a multinational corporation aimed squarely at a small, independent film and its filmmakers.
It is unfortunate that rather than concentrate its resources toward genuinely addressing the acts it admitted to, and was found liable of committing as covered in the film, Dole instead chooses to stifle even basic discussion by attempting to silence the messenger of a message it dislikes.
Moreover, it is appalling that through this action, Dole is attempting to shift the focus away from its own CEO’s court admission that Dole continued the usage of a banned pesticide even after being informed of its harm by its manufacturer Dow Chemicals, and now on to WG Film which captured that moment on film.
It is important to note that Dole committed to suing WG Film without seeing the film.
Dole has touted a judge’s later finding against one of the attorneys in the case shown in the film which did not in fact exonerate Dole or its actions in Nicaragua.
In all screenings of the film which have occurred to date we have disclosed the judge’s findings and put the trial fully in context with events which happened after the completion of this documentary."
Just a few weeks ago, BANANAS!* screened twice out of competition as a special screening at the recent Los Angeles Film Festival. Dole had sought a court order to block the film’s screening prior to the Festival’s opening in June 2009.
However, Judge Victoria Chaney who presided over that hearing stated to the Dole legal team and the entire courtroom:
“Just so we are clear, I am not in any way going to make, and I will not consider, any request for prior restraint on free speech. Okay? So, don’t ask me to go try and contact the film company. I don’t have jurisdiction over them. But even if I did, don’t ask me for it.”
BANANAS!* is produced by WG Film based in Malmö, Sweden, which has also produced notable documentaries including BURMA VJ and FINAL IMAGE.