Still courtesy of TIFF.
Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie
First off: this should have been the film that opened this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. And if TIFF wasn’t so eager to embarrass itself with opening night gala selection Score: A Hockey Musical, it probably would be. (Though to be fair, the promo shot of fest honchos Piers Handling and Cameron Bailey in custom hockey jerseys squaring off at centre ice at the this year’s TIFF kick-off press conference is just adorable.)
Where Score sells off the broadest characterizations of our national identity, Force of Nature has at its core values we could stand to be a bit more boastful about: our willingness to not glaze over the seedier aspects of our national history, our tendency to hold scientists like David Suzuki in high esteem, our environmental and geographic bounties, and our strong public arts and education initiatives (the film is a co-production between three: Telefilm, the CBC, and the NFB). There’s even some Bruce Cockburn and Arcade Fire on the soundtrack, for crying out loud.
Granted, Gunnarsson’s tendency to present Force of Nature in a manner a bit too beholden to An Inconvenient Truth, intercutting between Suzuki’s 2009 “Legacy Lecture” and his own recollection of his personal and professional history, seems a bit old hat. The film follows Suzuki as he revisits the Second World War–era internment camp he lived in as a boy, to Hiroshima, to the Tennessee research lab where he earned his stripes, to UBC, and the halls of the CBC headquarters. Suzuki’s life is not only fascinating, but inspiring, and Force of Nature offers a crash course for anyone unsure as to why Suzuki remains our nation’s most prominent environmental activist, and one of our foremost broadcasters and public intellectuals.
It falls apart a bit near the end, when Suzuki’s lecture expands its purview to the cosmological scale, suggesting that the bonds between atoms spinning out of the Big Bang have something inherently to do with love. It may be tricky to neatly wrap up such a comprehensive look at the problems inherent in the current modes of thinking about the environment, but fanciful propositions such as these serve largely to alienate the average citizen from the problems Suzuki so thoroughly diagnoses. But besides this late-game slip, Force of Nature is a masterful and important documentary of considerable magnitude, very much befitting its subject.
Want more TIFF 2010? Torontoist’s complete coverage of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is all right here.