"Beyond the Seal" reveals the hidden costs of 40 cent bananas

March 29, 2016

Katherine Nagasawa (Medill 2015) and Leah Varjacques (Medill 2015) are returning to Northwestern this spring to screen their multimedia documentary Beyond the Seal, which takes a deep dive into the past, present, and future of America’s favorite fruit.

Beyond the SealThe documentary, which is part video and part interactive website, profiles the lives of banana farmers in Ecuador, whose struggle with poverty and the hazardous health conditions of banana farming inspired Katherine and Leah to make the film.

Over the course of 2015 and with funding from the Buffett Institute, they produced Beyond the Seal to tell the farmers’ stories and to reveal the conflicts and hidden consequences of the US public’s ongoing demand for cheap bananas.

Leah became interested in the ethics of banana farming after living in Guatemala, where she saw the difficult lives of banana farmers first hand. After some further investigation about the banana trade and the virtual monopoly on bananas held by US fruit companies, she learned about farmers and vendors who were trying to start a more just supply chain by selling bananas through a fair trade model.

Beyond the SealLeah and Katherine met while studying journalism at Northwestern, where Leah got Katherine involved in her advocacy for fair trade bananas. They were also both involved in Buffett programs: Leah was a member of the Northwestern University Community for Human Rights (NUCHR) and Katherine was a participant in GESI Bolivia.

Both alums will present their film along with a panel discussion on fair trade fruit on April 19 at Harris Hall, room 108. Their hope is to get current students interested in the fight for fair fruit. You can watch the documentary and learn more at beyondtheseal.com.

Americas, Development, Human Rights, Undergraduate Students