Force of Nature—The David Suzuki Movie

Who is David Suzuki? This documentary on the man does not answer the question.

Suzuki is well-known in Canada as something of a modern renaissance man: a scientist, teacher, activist, and TV host.

But it is his work in television that seems to distinguish him. At least “Force of Nature—The David Suzuki Movie,” directed by Sturla Gunnarsson, never makes a strong case for its subject having left any mark in the other categories.

Suzuki’s main achievement? Apparently it is hosting for a number of years a CBC-TV program called “The Nature of Things,” many clips from which pad out this film.

While Suzuki studied fruit flies for much of his life, did he make any major discoveries in his field? He was on the side of the Haida Nation in a dramatic logging dispute, but exactly what role did he play? If he is really the “Godfather of Canadian environmentalism,” what qualifies him for the title?

US viewers not familiar with Suzuki’s work need more background information than this documentary has to offer.

“Force of Nature” is structured around a lecture Suzuki gave in Vancouver commemorating his seventy-fifth birthday. Five years after “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006), the lecture-into-movie template feels wholly tired.

The lecture itself, which comes with a massive PowerPoint presentation, lacks essential content. Suzuki proves to be a bit of a philosopher-scientist, but a lot of his ideas, like his evocations of interdependence, will be nothing new to anyone who has dipped into the basics of Eastern philosophy.

In fact, some of his points seem painfully obvious. For example, he emphasizes at one point that companionship is a fundamental human need.

He often makes pronouncements like “We have become a force of nature” and “We are the environment” and “The environmental crisis is a human crisis.” A passionate, eloquent speaker—who looks closer to fifty-five than seventy-five—he puts across such platitudes as if they were revelations.

Suzuki also covers random topics like the Big Bang, argon atoms, foresight, and mortality, usually employing an arsenal of mindbending factoids. The overarching point of all this, however, remains unclear.

His lecture touches on his life story here and there, especially his childhood days in an internment camp. However, “Force of Nature” is not very forthcoming about Suzuki’s pluses and minuses as a man.

The film has virtually no interviews with family members, colleagues, or students, their absence eventually seeming somehow conspicuous.

When Suzuki’s lecture ends with a giant image of his smiling face projected behind him, the fact that this film has not told us much about him is only accentuated. He winds up larger than life but never that much alive.

A Shadow Distribution release.

Directed and written by Sturla Gunnarsson.

Produced by Sturla Gunnarsson, Janice Tufford, and Yves J. Ma.

Cinematography, Tony Westman.

Editing, Nick Hector.

Running time: 93 minutes.