After being sued by the Dole Food Co over allegations that they defamed the company, a group of documentary filmmakers from Sweden have been awarded $200,000 in a Los Angeles court.
Dole Food Co filed a defamation lawsuit against the Swedish filmmakers after they produced a documentary film called Bananas!, which investigated the claims by Nicaraguan Dole employees who claimed working at banana plantations had made them sterile.
The employees alleged that the pesticides used on the Dole banana plantations made them infertile, but these claims were later thrown out of Nicaraguan courts due to lack of, or fabricated, evidence.
However, the filmmakers continued to screen their documentary at film festivals, prompting Dole to take legal action against them for defamation. In October 2009, Dole dropped the lawsuit due to “free speech concerns being expressed in Sweden”.
In spite of this, the filmmakers claim that defending the lawsuit thus far has cost them more than the cost of making Bananas! Being small-scale independent filmmakers, it is not likely that they would have had professional insurance to cover such costs.
After being awarded $200,000 to cover costs and legal fees by an LA judge, director Fredrik Gertten said:
“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.”