Airplanes spray streams of pesticides as they fly over a Nicaraguan plantation as a worker carries backbreaking heaps of bananas below. Workers diligently weed plants in the pesticide-filled air. Another banana worker is being buried in the nearby town, his kidneys having failed him after years of work on the plantation.
Enter Juan “Accidentes” Dominguez, a well-intentioned Ferrari-driving personal injuries lawyer from southern California. Dominguez makes his living representing working class people in court. His most recent project is to represent the 10,000 Nicaraguan banana workers who have been illegally exposed to Nemagon – a pesticide that was banned in the US in 1977 for causing male sterility. Dominguez plans to expose the fact that leading fruit multinationals Dole and Dow have been using Nemagon since 1982, with full knowledge of its side-affects.
Bananas!* exposes the tragic story of the suffering endured by banana workers at the hands of these corporations. One worker recalls, “I was a 21 year old. What did I know? Nobody told us anything. For two years I applied Nemagon without mask, gloves or protective clothing. Sometimes the pressure made the liquid splash right in your face. You could feel the hideous smell across 100 metres.” The efforts of Dominguez are seen as a blessing by the banana workers, as he takes on the evil corporations of Dole and Dow and fights exploitation by US global imperialism.
The film takes a downward turn, however, when it steers focus away from the workers’ struggle and more towards the inner intricacies of the court case. There are prolonged scenes of votes being counted and Dominguez and his team celebrating over beers and pizza.
The film ends with Dominguez’s plans to continue the trial against Dole and Dow. His efforts are admirable (if his motives are sometimes questionable) and the positive reforms to the banana plantations as a result of trials such as this cannot be denied.
A quietly evocative film
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