Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie: Film Review

Engaging doc mixes passionate environmental arguments with a warm biographical portrait.

Sturla Gunnarsson’s documentary spotlights Canadian environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki.

Resembling a warmer, fuzzier An Inconvenient Truth, Sturla Gunnarsson’s documentary focuses on famed Canadian environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki. Interweaving excerpts from the now 75-year-old scientist’s “Legacy Lecture,” delivered in 2009 at the University of British Columbia, with a biographical portrait of his life and career, Force of Nature provides a welcome humanistic element to go along with its cautionary arguments about our endangered relationship with the natural world.

Suzuki’s impressive media credentials -- which include five television shows and a radio program — make him a more than comfortable figure in front of the camera. Still youthful and energetic but projecting an avuncular, warm presence, he’s likeable in a way that Al Gore can only dream of being.

The filmmaker weaves together a canny blending of lecture footage and biographical portrait into a smooth narrative flow. In the former, Suzuki delivers a fairly dire message about the future of the planet, due to such factors as population growth, global warming caused by pollution, etc., all accompanied by suitably apocalyptic images.

But it’s his life story that will make the film appealing to even non die-hard environmentalists. Discussing such subjects as his childhood years spent in a Japanese internment camp with his parents during World War II (the only time in the film when he becomes overtly emotional); his teen years when he sublimated his sexual urges by happily exploring the biodiversity of swamps; and his civil rights activism while studying in the United States in the 1950s, Suzuki is an engaging and articulate subject.

One of the film’s most moving segments, and one that directly illustrates his arguments about mankind’s ability to destroy nature so willfully, depicts his visit to a Hiroshima memorial.

A prizewinner at the Toronto Film Festival, Force of Nature should well boost its subject’s profile stateside through its inevitable broadcast and DVD exposure.

Opens Friday, Dec. 2 (Shadow Distribution)
Production: Legacy Lecture Productions, National Film Board of Canada
Director/screenwriter: Sturla Gunnarsson
Producers: Janice Tufford, Sturla Gunnarsson, Yves J. Ma
Executive producers: Laszlo Barna, Steven Silver, Tracey Friesen
Director of photography: Tony Westman
Editor: Nick Hector
Production designer: Dany Lyne
No rating, 93 min.

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