November 29, 2010

Court strikes lawsuit against BANANAS!*

Filed under: News — admin @ 12:03 am

Press release:
Holding that the film Bananas!*, a “documentary on the topic of [Dole’s] treatment of its workers and use of pesticides” was an exercise of the “right of free speech,” a Los Angeles Superior Court today granted an anti-SLAPP motion filed by Swedish filmmakers Fredrik Gertten, Margarete Jangàrd and their production company WG Film, and struck the defamation complaint filed by Dole Food Company, Inc.

Although Dole had voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit a year ago after defendants filed the anti-SLAPP motion, the dismissal was “without prejudice” and the threat that Dole would reinstitute the action served to thwart the distribution of the film.

In granting the motion, the Court lifted the cloud over the film, holding that Dole’s lawsuit was "what is commonly known as a SLAPP" (which stands for "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation") that lacked “minimal merit.” Indeed, the Court found that a “careful review of the film does not support Dole’s assertions” in the complaint. The Court rejected Dole’s contention that the “overall tone” and purported implications made in the film were defamatory, holding that the film accurately and fairly portrayed the events surrounding a trial that took place in Los Angeles in which Nicaraguan banana workers sued Dow Chemical and Dole for its use of a pesticide that causes sterility.

In addition to striking the lawsuit with prejudice, the Court ordered Dole to pay attorneys fees and costs in the amount of $199,959.25. This ruling comes over one year after the filmmakers filed their anti-SLAPP motion and upholds the filmmakers’ contentions that Dole’s lawsuit had no merit.

“We are extremely happy and relieved with the Court’s ruling after this year-long struggle” said director Fredrik Gertten. “Corporations such as Dole must respect freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. These conglomerates have unlimited resources available to them to get their messages out, while independent filmmakers who are under attack while trying to uncover the truth, have very limited means to defend ourselves. We are pleased that BANANAS!* can now reach a larger audience in the United States and that the important issues raised in the film such as human rights for farm workers in third world countries can continue to be discussed and debated.”

“The Court’s ruling is a complete vindication for my clients and their documentary” said the filmmakers’ lawyer, Lincoln Bandlow of Lathrop & Gage LLP in Los Angeles. “The fee award is particularly gratifying because it sends a very important message – to corporations who believe they can use their unlimited wealth and the sword of litigation to squelch speech with which they disagree – that there is a price to pay for such attacks. I’m very happy to tell my Swedish clients that the First Amendment is still alive and well in America.”

BANANAS!* is the non-fiction film centering on the issues surrounding the treatment of banana workers in Nicaragua and covers one of the many lawsuits filed by these workers against Dole and other companies regarding the adverse health effects suffered as a result of the use of the pesticide DBCP in banana fields. The film was screened in June 2009 at the Los Angeles Film Festival out of competition to sold out audiences even after Dole had tried to stop its screenings. BANANAS!* has gone on to win awards and accolades and to play to sold out audiences at over 50 film festivals throughout the world including the Berlin International Film Festival this past January. In addition, distribution rights have been sold to more than 15 countries worldwide. In the US, Oscilloscope Laboratories will distribute the film.


For information and press enquiries, please contact:

Lathrop & Gage LLP
Katie Hollar
Phone: +01 816 286 6385

David Magdael & Associates
Winston Emano
Phone: +01 213 624 7827


Related articles:


November 28, 2010

BANANAS!* under fire – a timeline

Filed under: News — admin @ 7:00 am

(Last update: December 5, 2010)

BANANAS!* was one of the most talked about documentary films of 2009. The interest from media and the support from audiences and fellow filmmakers has been overwhelming. Below is a brief outline of the events during the hectic months before and after the film’s premiere.

In mid-December 2008, Director Fredrik Gertten and editor Jesper Osmund finished editing the cinema version of BANANAS!*.

In April 2009, Dole claimed that all but one of eleven plaintiffs in two upcoming DBCP cases against Dole had never worked on banana plantations and that the plaintiffs were paid and coached by their attorneys. Several witnesses testified on videotape, sixteen of them were anonymous “John Doe” witnesses because they claimed that they feared for their lives for exposing the alleged fraud.

Judge Victoria Chaney ultimately dismissed the cases, and also said that the fraud may have connections with the Tellez case, which was the trial featured in BANANAS!*. But Judge Chaney did not, despite Dole’s request, determine that there was no merit to any claims against Dole. Rather, she found that the actions presented before her had been so tainted with fraud by some of the plaintiffs, that she could not allow the cases to continue. Indeed, as Judge Chaney stated during the April 23 hearing on the matter: “We’ll never know if anybody in Nicaragua was actually injured or harmed by the alleged wrongful conduct of the defendants, and people will never have the opportunity to learn, since this fraud is so pervasive and extensive that it has forever contaminated even our own ability to ever know the truth.”

In April 2009, BANANAS!* was selected to compete in the Los Angeles Film Festival to be held in June. The film was also initially accepted for Silverdocs in Washington D.C., but got rejected because the Los Angeles Film Festival did not allow the film to simultaneously participate in another festival, although other films did so, including Convention by A.J Schnack and October County by Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher.

On May 5th 2009, the Los Angeles Film Festival arranged a press conference and announced the program. BANANAS!* was included in documentary competition, competing for a $50,000 prize. The same day, our website ( opened and the BANANAS!* trailer was published on Youtube and Vimeo. The BANANAS!* team celebrated with champagne.

On May 8th, another hearing about the fraud case was held in Los Angeles Superior Court. BANANAS!* was the subject of a discussion between Judge Victoria Chaney and Dole attorney Andrea Neuman, and the trailer for the film was showed in the court room. In regard to the film, Judge Chaney stated to those present: “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.” 

After the hearing, Dole’s law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, sent a letter to WG Film, ITVS and all of the sponsors of the Los Angeles Film Festival. Dole did not like the trailer, nor the promo material featured on the website:

“…it is clear that this film contains numerous false and defamatory statements of purported fact concerning Dole and its current and former officers and employees in connections with lawsuits brought against Dole and other defendants by plaintiffs’ attorney “Juan ‘Accidentes’ Dominguez. /…/ This letter is a formal demand that you immediately cease and desist making false and defamatory statements of purported fact regarding our clients, and that you immediately publish prominent reactions of the same. Failure to do so will subject you to legal action.”

Neither Dole nor their attorneys had seen the completed film – they had only seen the trailer. “Strange things happens in LA. Mighty forces showing arms”, Gertten twittered.

Five days later, WG Film’s U.S. lawyer, Richard J. Lee, wrote in response to Dole’s letter: “The film is a balanced documentary of a trial based on actual events. Most of the factual information contained in the film is stated by its subjects, not by the filmmaker, who is essentially acting as a reporter.”

On May 11th, the global BANANAS!* team was expanded with publicist David Magdael in Los Angeles. “Conference call on Skype: Malmö, St Johns, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Portland. Totally BANANAS!*”, Gertten twittered.

On May 14th, Dole’s lawyers sent a second “cease and desist” letter, still trying to shut down a film they had not seen. We responded by offering tickets to the LA premiere on June 20th.

May 18th, The BANANAS!* group on Facebook opened.

On June 5th, based on threats from Dole of possible legal action against the festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival moved BANANAS!* out of competition. Instead, a “special case study screening” was arranged, with a post-screening discussion with Gertten.

The same day, Dole’s lawyers sent a letter to the Swedish ambassador in Washington, asking him to stop the film: “We respectfully ask that the Consulate General withdraw its endorsement of this defamatory film, and that the Swedish Embassy take other appropriate steps to limit its damaging impact”.

Two weeks later, on June 22, Luciano Astudillo, a member of the Swedish parliament sent a public letter to the Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt: Does the Minister for Foreign Affairs intend to, in an appropriate way, protest against the fact that an American transnational corporation uses Swedish government authorities to stop the screening of a Swedish documentary?”

In a reply dated July 3, Bildt wrote that he did not plan to take action, since he had been informed that the Consulate General in Los Angeles supported all Swedish films in the festival and that they did not try to stop BANANAS!*.

On June 8th, the Los Angeles Business Journal published a story about BANANAS!* entitled ”The Big Slip-Up” with the sub headline “Documentary on lawyer needs fact-check.” The Los Angeles Business Journal, however, clearly did not conduct any fact-checking on its own article, let alone the film, because nobody at the Los Angeles Business Journal had seen the film. Following the article, Gertten stated in a press release: “In answer to the question of whether my film is fraudulent, I cannot see that it is.  Everything I filmed is the truth and how this all played out during this trial.  The most important evidence in the case is a letter between Standard Fruit Company (now Dole) and Dow Chemicals. This is hard evidence and was not something that I made up.”

On June 8th, a news team from Swedish National Television (SVT) interviewed Fredrik Gertten. Shortly after the story was broadcast, the reporter was contacted by Dole’s PR firm, Gibraltar Associates in Washington D.C. Three days later, another interview was made by the same team, now with the focus on the fraud accusations, including a telephone interview with Michael Carter, Dole’s Executive Vice President. The story was broadcast on prime time national SVT news.

On June 12th, the BANANAS!* team celebrated producer Margarete Jangård’s birthday with a tropical banana bar party in a rainy Malmö. “I just booked a film team to cover my Los Angeles totally BANANAS!* adventure. If the shit comes down, it will at least be on camera” Gertten wrote on Facebook.

On June 15th, Gertten’s twitter read “have we been slapped?” A “SLAPP” is an acronym for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”, which is a lawsuit whose aim is not to legitimately pursue a grievance but, rather, to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense in the hopes that they will abandon their criticism or opposition. See Wikipedia article »

On June 16th, we published an open letter to the international documentary community: “As we move forward, we hope you as our allies in the international documentary community will throw your support behind us. Dole and their counsel’s interference with us, ITVS, the Festival, and their sponsors represent a serious threat to independent documentary production.”

The same day, Gertten left for Los Angeles. ”Two interviews; radio and newspaper, whilst carrying my bag and stuff to the airport. Now a nice coffee at Copenhagen Airport”, he twittered.

On June 19th, Dole published a video response to the BANANAS!* trailer on Youtube. It was first named simply “Dole trailer” but was later renamed to “DBCP: A Conspiracy of Fraud.”

“One day to go for the totally BANANAS!* experience. Meeting with the festival lawyer soon. The heat is on, how will all this end? Don’t ever take freedom of speech for granted.” (Gertten on Facebook).

The festival board and its lawyer presented a proposition to Gertten and the producers: “If you just show clips from the film tomorrow, we can provide financial support for a new film, a grand opening, and distribution in the U.S.” We declined the offer.

June 20th – premiere day. Just hours before the screening, the Film Independent board held an internal screening, and discussed what to do. They decided to proceed, and BANANAS!* was screened at the UCLA James Bridges Theatre. In the last minute, however, BANANAS!* was pulled out from the Audience Award. Festival volunteers even had to re-collect the voting ballets from the sitting audience.

Before the screening, the executive director of Film Independent, Dawn Hudson, read a statement addressing why the film was removed from competition. Gertten then showed Dole’s video response to the BANANAS!* trailer and held a speech about the importance of free speech and the balance between different voices.

Dole Executive Vice President Michael C. Carter attended the screening. He left instantly after the screening, before the panel discussion and debate had even began.

“Two hours and twenty minutes before the screening we got the green light from the festival board. The film was screened. At least ten people from Dole in the audience, taking notes. The audience loved the film. The debate was insane, but I loved it. Just spent 1500 dollars on the party the Swedish consulate promised to give. Before Dole started to send letters.” (Gertten on Facebook).

Before the screening, a petition for BANANAS!* was arranged by other filmmakers participating in the festival: ”We strongly feel that as artists one has the right and freedom to show their work despite how others might feel about the content. Thank you for sustaining the integrity of the Fesitval by showing BANANAS!* tonight.”

The petition continues online and is still active. Sign the petition »

June 22
“Woke up with heavy intense knocks on my door. Somebody calling my name. So now the shit has hit the fan. Shall I receive the papers smiling or shall I kick them? …It was a guy from the reception, somebody was trying to call my room, and the phone didn’t work. Five minutes later I went live on Radio Kristianstad back home. Good Morning LA.” (Gertten on Facebook).

June 23
The film was screened again in LA. “The drama continues. Received a new letter from Dole, where they urged us to not screen the film again. We did, and the house was sold out again. Great screening, with the same strange set up around it. When Juan Dominguez’s brother raised his voice, the room got silenced. A passionate defense for his brother, he made a few very strong points.” (Gertten on Facebook).

Dole attended the screening on June 20, and in their third letter, dated June 23, they points to several alleged “undeniable and fatal problems” in the film. They reference the free speech discussion that evolved before the screening and also provide Gertten with an idea for an alternative film version: “The irony is that the latest developments in Judge Chaney’s courtroom provide the makings of a truly dramatic and important film: a U.S. lawyer who goes to Nicaragua, exploits poor, uneducated Nicaraguan citizens, foments political unrest against his own country as part of a massive conspiracy to manufacture false claims for billions of dollars and commit fraud on the U.S. courts. /…/ Given all of this, with some re-editing, re-writing, and re-shooting to focus on the truth, it seems you could have produced a truly compelling film”

On June 24th, Dole (using the legal process still ongoing before Judge Chaney) issued subpoenas to the Los Angeles Film Festival and ITVS, demanding that they provide to Dole all business records pertaining to BANANAS!*. One week later, Gertten wrote a letter to Film Independent director Dawn Hudson, asking her not to submit to the demands of the subpoena: ”To cede to the demands of the subpoena without fighting them would truly hurt the integrity of the organization as the supporter of the independent filmmaker, and of free speech. Further, this could very well set a dangerous precedent in how outside parties handle legal actions toward films presented at the Los Angeles Film Festival and films associated with Film Independent.”

June 26
“News chopper in the air three blocks away from my hotel. King of pop is dead. So sad. Last coffee at Profeta before leaving Westwood and Los Angeles. A very special and totally BANANAS!* experience is over. Hopefully!”, Gertten twittered.

June 29
“The Mexican film "Those Who Remain" won the doc jury award. In their speech they asked everybody to toast for me and BANANAS!*. Very sweet. Viva Mexico and big thanks to the Ambulante Film Festival, amor y solidaridad”, Gertten twittered.

On July 7th, Dole filed a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against WG Film, director Gertten and producer Margarete Jangård over the LA screenings of BANANAS!*. The lawsuit claims that the film defames Dole.

On July 9th, our lawyer Richard J. Lee issued a statement about the lawsuit, saying: "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.

On July 24th, The BANANAS!* fan page on Facebook was launched.

On July 28th, we retained First Amendment specialist Lincoln Bandlow of Lathrop & Gage to defend us against Dole. In a press release, Bandlow said: "Dole does not want the [BANANAS!*] release to happen because it wants discussion about its DBCP practices to simply go away. We are confident the court will not allow Dole to use this meritless lawsuit to accomplish that goal".

July 31
Dole’s PR firm, Gibraltar Associates, continued to send letters to Swedish journalists. The Swedish news site published one of them.

August 1 – 2
BANANAS!* was pre-screened two evenings in a row during the Båstad Film Festival. Both screenings sold out. Several Swedish journalists wrote what they thought about the film and the lawsuit. Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter interviewed Dole lawyer Ted Boutrous in a widely read article entitled “BANANAS!* is a lie” – a quote from Boutrous (published August 5th).

On August 7th, the website published a story about Dole’s PR tactics related to BANANAS!*. In the article, several Swedish PR experts describe Dole’s actions as “a total PR failure”.

On August 13th, internationally acclaimed filmmakers Kim Longinotto, Hubert Sauper and Robert Kenner expressed their support to director Fredrik Gertten and BANANAS!* in Swedish daily Sydsvenskan. Kim Longinotto wrote in an email to Sydsvenskan: “I hope they don’t succeed in silencing [Gertten]. These large companies are accustomed to getting their will through. Therefore, it’s inspiring for the rest of us when someone dares to stand up and question their actions. /…/ The fact that a powerful multinational corporation is trying to discourage the filmmaker illustrates the power of this film. Fredrik has scared them.” (Our translation). Read more »

On August 23rd, a campaign aimed at raising awareness about the BANANAS!* case and to activate supporters around the Swedish premiere was launched. Join the BANANAS!* Free Speech Campaign »

On August 24th, The German Documentary Association (AG DOK) sent a letter to Dole. Thomas Frickel, CEO of AG DOK strongly criticized Dole’s attempts to silence BANANAS!*, and demanded that they immediately should cease their attack on the film and the freedom of information. Otherwise, he would officially ask the 850 members of AG DOK to use their contacts and resources to produce critical films and news reports about Dole and its methods.

On August 25th, Malmö Filmdagar opened – a festival where the film industry screens their work to each other and to the press. BANANAS!* was screened twice. A press conference with lawyer Lincoln Bandlow was held using a Skype video feed. The journalists, most of them surprised and puzzled by the Dole lawsuit after seeing the film, asked questions directly to Bandlow.

On September 2nd, the Swedish division of Reporters Without Borders condemned the BANANAS!* lawsuit on their website and launched an online petition – a letter to be sent to the Dole headquarters.

On September 8th, Swedish medical journal Läkartidningen published a story about DBCP, the pesticide under scope in the trial portrayed in BANANAS!*. The article evaluates the studies being made about the toxic effects of DBCP, and reveals that the producers, Dow Chemicals and Shell, played down a test result from as early as 1962, where scientists had detected sperm damage in rats and recommended highly protective gear while applying the chemical. This information did not make it to the warning signs on the product labels.

On September 11th, Dole’ executive vice president, Michael Carter, was interviewed in Swedish daily Sydsvenskan. Regarding the BANANAS!* lawsuit, he was quoted saying: ”Let [Gertten] fight. I know what will happen here. He will lose, he will definitely lose.”

Later the same day, we responded the Dole lawsuit by filing an Anti-SLAPP Motion and a Cross-Complaint. SLAPP is an acronym for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation and allows the court to dismiss meritless lawsuits filed for the purpose of stifling protected speech (read Wiki article »).

As set forth in the motion, Dole’s lawsuit simply seeks to “poison the fountain of free speech” by intimidating anyone who speaks out on this important issue of public concern who does not comport with Dole’s “spin” on recent events pertaining to DBCP litigation.

In addition to filing an Anti-SLAPP Motion, we also filed a Cross-Complaint against Dole, seeking to recover damages for Dole’s improper tactics in interfering with the film’s premiere and its participation in the Los Angeles Film Festival. Read more »

On September 29, an opinion piece was published in Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, signed by chairmen of three major Swedish film organizations. Håkan Tidlund, chairman of the Swedish Film Institute was one of them. In the article, they urged Dole to withdraw their lawsuit against BANANAS!*: “The foundations of an open society are poisoned when journalists, writers, artists and filmmakers have to work under the threat of being sued every time a financially strong party is examined.” Read more »

On the same day, a letter was sent to Swedish MPs Mats Johansson (m) and Luciano Astudillo (s), who had invited director Fredrik Gertten to screen BANANAS!* in the Swedish parliament on October 1. The news about this meeting had reached Michael Carter, Executive Vice President of Dole, who sent a letter to Johansson and Astudillo. In the letter, Carter provides Dole’s perspective on BANANAS!* and “a more complete understanding, given the October 1 screening”. Read more »

On October 1, BANANAS!* was screened in a fully booked meeting room in the Swedish parliament. After the screening, MPs Mats Johansson and Luciano Astudillo launched a cross-party petition, collecting names in the Parliament. In the petition they are asking Dole to withdraw their lawsuit. The will to defend free speech was overwhelming from politicians from left to right, and the story got widely spread in Swedish media. In an interview with SVT News, Fredrik Gertten said: “The fact that the parliament is screening this film is an important symbolic gesture. We often take freedom of speech for granted, but obvious things must also be defined and formulated. The parliament members who took the initiative to this screening are doing just that, they are formulating why it is important to defend this movie. And I am incredibly happy about that.” Read more »

One week later, Johansson and Astudillo sent a reply to Michael Carter’s letter. They were not impressed by Dole’s PR tactics, and continued to collect names, asking Dole to withdraw their lawsut.

On October 5, the CEO of Swedish hamburger chain Max said that they had stopped selling Dole fruit salads. A blogger had informed them about the lawsuit against BANANAS!*. “We don’t like Dole’s actions. Suing a filmmaker instead of having a dialogue is despicable,” said Max CEO Richard Bergfors to the news website.

On October 6, Dagens Nyheter published a two-page Sunday story entitled “Why is Dole suing a filmmaker?”. The story was written by Dan Koeppel, who connects the suing of BANANAS!* with a century of banana industry history. Koeppel is the author of the book ”Banana. The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World”. Read the story in english »

October 8
Grandiose Gala premiere in Malmö with wine, music and speeches. Over 600 people saw BANANAS!* on Swedens largest cinema screen. Fredrik Gertten on Facebook: “Now very very tired after the gala premiere, early morning radio tomorrow, Fair Trade panel, interview with ARTE news from Berlin and then the great premiere broadcasted to cinemas around the country. Need some sleep, will get it one day.”

The same day, The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), who represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide, condemned Dole’s lawsuit. "The company’s action is designed to legitimise censorship," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "We condemn the use of law to try to evade media scrutiny and public accountability. It is an unforgiveable violation of free speech." Read more »

On October 9, BANANAS!* had its Swedish premiere. Over 20 cinemas all over Sweden screened the film simultaneously. After the screening, Fredrik Gertten was interviewed by Orvar Säfström at Spegeln Cinema in Malmö. The interview was broadcasted live, and audiences all over Sweden could send questions via SMS. Over 400 questions were received. A recording of this Q&A will be included on the BANANAS!* DVD, with planned release in December, 2009.

The same morning, reviews were published in all major Swedish newspapers. Dagens Nyheter, Sydsvenskan, Aftonbladet and Expressen all gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Read more »

On October 15, BANANAS!* was once again discussed in the Swedish parliament, this time on government level. The Swedish minister of culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, met with Fredrik Gertten, free speech lawyer Percy Bratt and MPs Mats Johansson and Luciano Astudillo to get a deeper insight into the matter.

The story about the Max hamburger boycott (see October 5) had spread to news media all over Sweden, and journalists started contacting major food grocers ICA, Coop and Axood for comments. In an interview with Swedish news agency TT, a representative from ICA said that they had contacted Dole and demanded to have a talk about the film and the situation. In relation to the meeting with the Swedish minister of culture, Johansson and Astudillo therefore invited representatives from Coop, ICA and Axfood to an informal lunch in the parliament.

The same day, Dole withdrew their lawsuit. In a press release, Dole said they had made their decision in light of the free speech concerns being expressed in Sweden, although they continues to believe in the merits of its case. "While the filmmakers continue to show a film that is fundamentally flawed and contains many false statements we look forward to an open discussion with the filmmakers regarding the content of the film," said Michael Carter, Dole’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel. Read more »

Fredrik Gertten on Facebook: “Dole is withdrawing the lawsuit. We still don’t know the conditions. We still have a counterclaim that has to be resolved. Journalists start calling. But I’m still going to Stockholm to meet to minister of culture.”

On October 29, director Fredrik Gertten, producer Margarete Jangård and WG Film withdrew their counterclaim against Dole. However, they asked the court to compel Dole to pay the fees and costs incurred to defend the lawsuit. 

In a press release, attorney Lincoln Bandlow said that “the law is clear that Dole cannot file its action, compel defendants to incur significant expense in having to file an anti-SLAPP motion to have the case thrown out, and then just slink away with a voluntary dismissal while the motion is pending and not pay for its actions. The lawsuit should never have been filed – Dole has to pay the price for filing it.  Whether Dole will have to answer for the additional and significant damage it caused the makers of the film to suffer will be a question that may get revisited some other day.”

Fredrik Gertten said: ”having successfully compelled Dole to end their legal assault on the film, we are now focusing our efforts on getting the film out to the world.  Once we catch our breath from working on overcoming the harm initially caused by Dole’s tactics, we will reevaluate reinstituting our action against Dole.” Read more »

January 25, 2010
After months of silence, a new plaintiffs’ lawyer in the Tellez case filed a motion in the California Superior Court which seriously contested Dole’s allegations of fraud in the Nicaraguan DBCP cases. The new lawyer, Steve Condie, writes that Judge Victoria Chaney’s dismissal of all upcoming DBCP cases was not only unfair, but also a distraction from the genuine claim involving Dole’s use of DBCP.

In the motion, Condie writes that at least four of the anonymous “John Doe” witnesses were paid by Dole and that four more had their own personal motives to slander American lawyers involved in DBCP litigation in Nicaragua. And since the “John Doe” witnesses were anonymous, it’s practically impossible to double check their statements, which is unfair.

Condie concludes that none of Dole’s evidence in the fraud case is reliable or unbiased: ”there is no credible evidence suggesting that any fraudulent activities engaged in Nicaragua by anyone had any impact or effect on the trial in this case“.

On February 15, Oscilloscope Laboratories, a New York based film production and theatrical distribution company, picked up the US rights to BANANAS!*. However, WG Film’s insurance company could not protect Oscilloscope from further lawsuits from Dole. WG Film’s anti-SLAPP motion was still pending in court, and the grant of the motion was necessary to clear the film and to enable full US distribution.

The grant of the anti-SLAPP motion was also important for another distributor, The Independent Television Service (ITVS). They could not provide the film to broadcasters until they were sure the insurance company could cover them.

In May 2010, Nicaraguan newspaper El Nuevo Diario published a series of articles providing alternative stories about Dole’s actions in the Tellez case. The first article starts off during a press conference in Managua, where seven former banana workers said Dole bribed or tricked them to witness against the affected plaintiffs’. Read more »

On June 15, BANANAS!* won the audience award at the Environmental Film Festival in Goiás, Brazil (FICA). Read more »

In June, director Fredrik Gertten once again travelled to Los Angeles for a special screening of BANANAS!*. The screening was held the night before the final anti-SLAPP hearing. Dole did however manage to postpone the hearing until August 19. The Anti-SLAPP statute specifically states that a hearing on an Anti-SLAPP motion should be heard no later than 30 days from filing – yet it had been nine months since the motion was filed.

In a Q&A preceding the hearing, Gertten said "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 /…/ Hopefully the judge will make the same conclusion". Read the full Q&A »

On October 22, the final anti-SLAPP hearing was held after a long series of postponed dates. The hearing was a success for Fredrik Gertten, Margarete Jangård and WG Film, but the written ruling was not released until one month later.
Download the anti-SLAPP hearing transscript »

On November 17, the written ruling was finally released. The Los Angeles Superior Court granted the anti-SLAPP motion filed by Fredrik Gertten, Margarete Jangård and WG Film, and struck the defamation complaint filed by Dole. The Court found that a “careful review of the film did not support Dole’s assertions” in the complaint. In addition to striking the lawsuit with prejudice, the Court ordered Dole to pay attorneys fees and costs in the amount of $200,000.

"The Court’s ruling is a complete vindication for my clients and their documentary" said the filmmakers’ lawyer, Lincoln Bandlow. "The fee award is particularly gratifying because it sends a very important message – to corporations who believe they can use their unlimited wealth and the sword of litigation to squelch speech with which they disagree – that there is a price to pay for such attacks. I’m very happy to tell my Swedish clients that the First Amendment is still alive and well in America."

Director Fredrik Gertten said: "We are pleased that BANANAS!* can now reach a larger audience in the United States and that the important issues raised in the film such as human rights for farm workers in third world countries can continue to be discussed and debated."

Read more about the ruling »
Download the full anti-SLAPP ruling »

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