Regardless of what you think of Fredrick Gertten’s Bananas!* – a film I was skeptical of in part because of the film itself and, likely, in part, because of Dole’s campaign of defamation against Mr. Gertten – I doubt you believe that it should be censored (especially if you’ve never seen it). I have seen lots of terrible documentaries, and seen lots of nonsense on the internet but never have I demanded that the content be suppressed. (And I would suggest that is the right attitude to have regarding any kind of media, but particularly documentary media.)
Free speech is the most important bedrock of liberal democracy and it needs to apply to everyone, as much as that is possible. There are limits to free speech but these limits should be pretty limited and it’s hard to see how corporations should be allowed to decide who can and cannot speak, through the power of law suits.
Dole didn’t feel as though free speech is okay; instead they bullied the LA film festival, Bananas‘ distributors and producers and did everything they could to keep the from being screened. When that didn’t quite work, they sued Gertten and two of his producers. They did all of this without staff even seeing the movie.
What’s worse is that American media covered the story as if Bananas!* was everything Dole said it was and nothing Gertten said it was, again without seeing the film. How someone can do that? (Well, I know how, but that doesn’t make me any less outraged.)
This film shines a light on a rather unfortunate turn of events in North America (and especially the US) in the last few decades, the co-opting of news media by big business. Dole’s behaviour here is reprehensible – albeit understandable, from their perspective – but the media outlets which allowed Dole to continue don’t come off looking any better.
Fortunately, Gertten is Swedish. And what the Swedes do when they are finally awoken to the issue is the kind of thing that will restore your faith in humanity, if only for a minute.
Essential viewing even if you haven’t seen the original film.