Beyond the Seal

Beyond the Seal peels back our understanding on the most eaten fruit in the United States–the banana–uncovering its toxic production and the people behind a movement to change the industry.


Leah Varjacques: Director and Producer Katherine Nagasawa: Director and Producer

School or City

El Oro Province, Ecuador

Place Title

2016 Best Student Film + People's Choice Award Winner




6Leah Varjacques

Leah Varjacques was born in France, grew up in NY and lives in Chicago. While studying video journalism and international studies at Northwestern University, Leah got the chance to report on complex global issues, like environmental racism in Brazil and gender-based violence in South African mines. She became fascinated with social justice issues and their global interconnectedness while traveling and living in Latin America. Her experiences there, along with a growing interest in transmedia storytelling, inspired her to create Beyond the Seal, Leah and Katherine’s first web documentary about fair trade bananas. Leah now works for Free Spirit Media teaching high school students digital media and documentary filmmaking on the west side of Chicago, and is happy to be working on a new documentary project with Katherine. Leah hopes to make a career of creating documentaries and exploring how multimedia storytelling can effect social change.


7Katherine Nagasawa

A native of sunny Southern California, Katherine experienced cold for the first time when she moved to Chicago to study film and journalism at Northwestern University. There she met Leah, and the two embarked on an ambitious journey to produce “Beyond the Seal,” their first-ever web documentary about Fair Trade bananas and the people behind a movement to change the banana industry. Katherine honed her interest in interactive journalism in Buenos Aires, Argentina at La Nación while working on an interactive, investigative story about the people’s fight for reliable public data. She’s now based at WBEZ Chicago where she’s helping produce “Heat of the Moment,” a new multimedia series about the people living climate change. In years to come Katherine hopes to continue telling character-driven social issue stories and exploring new forms of impactful online storytelling.

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Beyond the Seal







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