We've got some really great news!
The Bertha BRITDOC Fund for Journalism is an international film fund dedicated to supporting long form feature documentaries of a journalistic nature. These nice people have been impressed by Big Boys Gone Bananas!* and has granted us £10 000 to support our ongoing legal costs. From their site:
"We are looking for films that break the important stories of our time, expose injustice, bring attention to unreported issues and cameras into regions previously unseen. This new fund recognises such films are often delicate and protracted, making them difficult to fund. With a mission to enable in-depth analysis of issues through long-form investigative filmmaking, we are particularly looking to work with filmmakers with a journalistic background or those who are collaborating with journalists".
If you are curious about the other grantees and their films, you can read more about them here. Thanks a lot, BRITDOC!
In this very moment the film is playing in theatres all over Sweden. I have been travelling around, meeting audiences all over the country. We opened with four special screenings in cooperation with Doc Lounge, live music, DJs and huge crowds of enthusiastric audiences. The 24th was the official release date and the reviews flooded in. And we can proudly announce that they're really good. We are at the very top of the Swedish critics' list, with the highest score. Average 4.0 out of 5. Really cool.
I've been doing interviews almost every day. I was booked for two morning TV shows the very day Sweden got a new crown princess-to-be. Of course, the media went crazy, and I was kicked out of the TV4 show. A bit frustrating, since I had got up at 5.30, shaved and showered – my first thought: "Well done, Dole!" The SVT morning show did allow for a short slot for me. So in the waiting room, I was hanging around with the Archbishop and a ton of sleazy lovers of monarchy...
One of the rewards in our Kickstarter campaign is the book 'Washington on $10 Million a Day' by Ken Silverstein, who is one of the participants in BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!*. (Pledge $50 to Fredrik's cause, and the book will be yours.)
For Harper's Magazine, Ken wrote the article 'Their men in Washington' which we're reprinting here with his permission.
In March, when the U.S. State Department announced its new global survey of human rights, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared that the report demonstrated America’s commitment to civil liberties, the rule of law, and a free press. “We are recommitting ourselves to stand with those courageous men and women who struggle for their freedom and their rights,” she said. “And we are recommitting ourselves to call every government to account that still treats the basic rights of its citizens as options rather than, in President Bush’s words, the non-negotiable demands of human dignity.”
Flipping through the report, however, one cannot help but notice how many of the countries that flout “the non-negotiable demands of human dignity” seem to have negotiated themselves significant support from the U.S. government, whether military assistance (Egypt, Colombia), development aid (Azerbaijan, Nigeria), expanded trade opportunities (Angola, Cameroon), or official Washington visits for their leaders (Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan). The granting of favorable concessions to dictatorial regimes is a practice hardly limited to the current administration: Bill Clinton came into office having said that China’s access to American markets should be tied to improved human rights—specifically its willingness to “recognize the legitimacy of those kids that were carrying the Statue of Liberty” at Tiananmen Square—but left having helped Beijing attain its long-cherished goal of Permanent Most Favored Nation trade status. Jimmy Carter put the promotion of human rights at the heart of his foreign policy, yet he cut deals for South American generals and Persian Gulf monarchs in much the same fashion as his successor, Ronald Reagan.
BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!* will be shown on 38 screens in Sweden in the coming month. The launch has already started with great film parties together with our friends at Doc Lounge in Malmö, Lund, Stockholm and Göteborg.
Friday 24 February the film opens in 14 theatres that will play the film commercially. On Wednesday 29th there will be a live broadcast from Malmö to 18 cinemas around the country. The audience can send text messages with questions to the director Fredrik Gertten and his lawyer Lincoln Bandlow.
Lincoln Bandlow is invited to Sweden to give a speech in parliament the same day, just before a screening of the film for the Swedish legislators. After the screening in parliament there will be debate about the worrying lack of balance between independent journalism and the growing PR and lobbying industry. Fredrik Gertten has been very active debating this issue in Swedish media over the last weeks. He asks for transparency:
"We the citizens need to know who pays for the lobbying. And how much."
Internationally, the film's festival life is gearing up. After IDFA in Amsterdam, the Sundance Film Festival, and Doc Point in Helsinki, now comes Zagreb Docs, the One World Film Festival in Prague, and the Festival Internacional de Cine de Punta del Este in Uruguay, with more to be announced soon.
Below is a full list of the Swedish screenings.
Bart Simpson from Canada (yes, he's heard the jokes) was a co-producer of the original BANANAS!* movie and hence became a subject of BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!*. And as a co-producer of THE CORPORATION, he's familiar with the nature of the beast. Here's his account of a unique Sundance experience.
After getting stuck at the Seattle airport for 27 hours (not something I recommend; they really don’t know how to deal with snow), any change of scenery was welcome. So you can imagine the joy I felt at finally landing in Salt Lake City and meeting a nice resident who offered to drive me and my new airport buddy David (co-director of the excellent 5 Broken Cameras) straight to the theatre where BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!* was set to have its North American premiere at Sundance.
My dear mother and the film team had been waiting for me in Park City for about 12 hours by now, and when I arrived just one hour before screening - without luggage but wearing my emergency shirt (that looked an awful lot like a wrestling top
) - I was ready to see the film for the first time...
See the whole interview here.
Never been to Park City before, always heard about it. So arriving in this remote mountain resort was quite confusing at first. How can this place host one of the world's most important film festivals? After only a few days, now that the streets and bars are crowded, I understand it better. Everybody is here, and if you're lucky you'll bump into celebrities on a slippery, snowy street.
Many great filmmakers are presenting their work here at Sundance. So you never know how your own film will be recieved. Arriving at the Prospector theatre for the very first U.S. screening of BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!*, I was a bit nervous. Yet the festival is so professional, you really feel welcome and safe. Projection and sound are perfect. Respect!
When my film was starting to roll I could finally lean back and enjoy it. And the audience did so, too. They were laughing. Some booed, upset by the big boys' behavior...
Time to go West, to my very first Sundance Film Festival. Flying out today: Copenhagen, Chicago, Salt Lake City, and then a shuttle up to Park City.
My schedule is booked: screenings, parties and morning radio-shows!
Friday will see our very first US screening of BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!*. Remembering the L.A. Film Festival premiere of BANANAS!* we know we can except anything. So the butterflies will be there. But my lawyer Lincoln Bandlow will be there with me. Feels good, and safe.
Our Kickstarter campaign has taken off in a very positive way. Soon 6,000 dollars, after only six days. There's still way to go before we reach our target of 15,000 dollars. If we don't get there, no money will be transferred. So please keep spreading the news, and tell your friends to join the campaign.
Remember this not only a campaign for funding a film, it's also an outreach campagin. We want this film to be seen all over the world, and we hope you all can use this film in an imporant debate on free speech and on corporate attempts at controlling the news stories that reach us every day.
Well, now I have to close my bag. Carry it down the stairs, walk to Malmö Triangeln station, and jump on the train to Copenhagen Airport. It takes only 16 minutes.
2012 is now in full swing, and we hope it'll only bring the best for you! We think we can give this new year a bigger theme. For us, it'll be the year of free speech in documentary.
This is not just about our own films. It happens quite often that corporate control freaks threaten independent documentary filmmakers and their livelihoods. Or as Dole's PR company said it: "It is easier to cope with a bad conscience than a bad reputation." Here's another example, an article published this weekend in the NY Times about what happened to Joe Berlinger who had made a film about Chevron's mess in Ecuador.
With the Sundance Film Festival, we're lucky enough to have the greatest possible launch platform for BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!*. What we don’t have is the money to pay for the initial costs of such a launch. We’re still suffering from the loss of all the time and money that went into the fight Dole had brought upon us. Against all odds, we did succeed in making my previous film available to people around the world. But this came at a huge price.
That's why we've decided to reach out and ask for your help. Today, we're launching a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter...
An email from Caroline Libresco made my heart beat.
Dear Fredrik and Margarete,
On behalf of John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, it’s our great pleasure to invite BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!* to play in our World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Our programming team is very excited to present the North American premiere of this excellent film.
One email can sometimes change a lot of things. This one was then followed by a flood of emails from film festivals, sales agents, distributors, journalists – and of course friends wishing us all the best.