Tuesday, November 29, 2011

FORCE OF NATURE, Sturla Gunnarson's doc on David Suzuki, is a must-see, must-share

David Suzuki? That I knew nothing about this guy (and you may not, either) speaks volumes, I think, about the USA's ridiculous lack of interest in our neighbors to the north. Yes, Canada. What? Was that a yawn I just heard? Well, get over yourself and meet a man who, once you see/hear him speak and learn his story-- as you will when you watch the new documentary FORCE OF NATURE: The David Suzuki Movie --you will never forget.

In Canada, the fellow is pretty much a household name for his hosting of the long-running CBC TV show The Nature of Things and for his pioneering, passionate and really unarguable environmentalism. If you follow this blog, you'll know that TrustMovies sees a lot of environmental-themed films. So when he tells you that Suzuki is the most eloquent and compelling voice -- funny, real and inspiring, too -- for environmental sanity in the world today, I hope you'll react by giving the guy a shot.

Despite the bleak picture we know of where our world appears to be headed, Suzuki -- 75 years old, but possessing more energy that some people half his age -- still manages to fill you with joy and hope, crazy as that may sound. And this documentary, about and with him, from filmmaker Sturla Gunnarsson (shown at left, who gave us the under-seen and really quite good Beowulf & Grendel back in 2005) is so enriching and on-the-mark that, when it's over, you immediately want to share it with everyone you know. Suzuki's kindness, decency, intelligence and sheer force come across so strongly that you can't help but feel that watching this film might make everyone care as much about our world as does he.

The impetus for the movie is Suzuki's return to the University of British Columbia to deliver his "legacy lecture" (shown above and four photos down) to a sold-out house. Mr. Gunnarsson smartly uses this lecture as his basis, weaving into it whole segments of Suzuki's (and his family's) history -- and quite a history it is.

Suzuki's mom (above) and dad, though full-blooded Japanese, were born in Canada (they had never even set foot on Japanese soil), as was he (that's David with his brother, below). Nonetheless, post-Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Canadians, like Japanese-Americans, were tossed into the North American version of concentration camps (yes, these were called "relocation" camps). And Canada, post-war, may have actually been less honorable than was the U.S. British Columbia, it turns out, did not want the Suzukis back, so the family had to move elsewhere in Canada.

We move with Suzuki from past to present, from a Bluefin Tuna auction ("criminal," he calls it) to his old university in America's south where he did his research studies and then to a lunch with the Black woman (below) who acted as his old research group's lab assistant back in the 60s. He tells us that seeing how she was treated back then changed him. "Every time I saw a 'whites only' sign, I'd get physically ill and have to throw up. I was becoming a racist against whites."

We also learn learn a little of his early marriage; his understanding and acceptance of why it failed and how he was responsible seems exemplary. We meet his second wife Dr. Tara Cullis, and see some of his popular TV programs -- about which his father insisted early on that his son make himself more understandable.

Among the most interesting sections is that having to do with Suzuki's connections to the Haida, the aboriginal people of British Columbia -- how he and his family worked for the betterment of the Haida and in fact, intermarried with them (below). Suzuki now has a half-Haida grandson.

Regarding his senior years, the man has some clear and important things to say about this final section of our lives. Listening to him speak with such enthusiasm and poetry, I realized how much I'd have loved to have had him as a teacher. He is certainly our teacher here, and if you take this 92-minute course that filmmaker Gunnarsson has served up, you -- and our world -- will profit from it.

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie opens this Friday, December 2, in New York City at the Cinema Village. Press reviews and word-of-mouth should be strong enough to see that the film is snapped up soon by other theaters around the country.

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