Force Of Nature : The Dr David Suzuki Movie
Scientist, broadcaster and environmentalist Dr David Suzuki began his career on television in 1962 with the intent of sharing scientific knowledge so that we could make informed choices. 49 years later, some of us have accepted that climate change is caused by humans. And some haven’t.
Now almost 75 years old, Suzuki holds a BA in Biology and a PhD in Zoology together with 24 honorary degrees. He’s written 48 books, including 19 for children. And he now stars in one film.
Dr Suzuki was approached by producer Lazlo Barna and the initial concept wasn’t necessarily to have Suzuki as the centrepiece. In fact Suzuki spent some time writing an Avatar-like piece which would have demanded a pretty substantial budget in special effects. After Barna and Director Sturla Gunnarsson attended a few of Suzuki’s speeches though, they found their story. While Suzuki wasn’t necessarily looking to tell his story (as he points out, he’s written two autobiographies, one at age 50, and one at age 70), he was engaged by the idea of reaching a broad audience.
“I’ve always been impressed with the impact that feature films have,” says Suzuki. “I’ve been doing television since 1962 and when people watch TV, they’re watching it usually in a big chunk of time and they have to go to the bathroom, or put the kids to bed, or let the dogs out. They’re not focused tightly on the film. But when people go to a movie, they’ve paid money and they’re going to sit there for two hours and watch. It has a very different impact. I remember I was in the audience when Dances With Wolves first came out and the impact of that film on native and non-native people alike was immense. I remember when Crocodile Dundee came out and you know, people suddenly had a different attitude towards Australia. Feature films can have a huge impact. And so I was asked three years ago if I would be interested in getting involved in a feature film and I jumped at the chance. When I said yes I had no idea I would end up the central part of the film, that’s not what I had in mind.
“Sturla evolved the idea of the film, which was to use my life as a way of hanging a number of very important issues that have come up: from the civil rights movement, to the atomic bomb over Japan, to genetic engineering, to the environmental crisis.” The concept was for the film to be Suzuki’s last speech, which would crystallise his life’s learnings. He and Sturla constructed the speech. “We worked for months. I must have gone through 20 different versions of a speech I would give. At the time, it was called ‘the last lecture’. The idea being that I was retiring from the university and would present my legacy speech to the university community. That was filmed and then became the spine, or the backbone, of the film, but the message basically was an environmental message that had become much clearer in my mind.” Suzuki sees the film as his message as an elder of the community – free from the desires for fame, power, money or sex, he can reflect on what he’d like to leave as a legacy.
He asks that the people of his generation and the baby boomer generation consider, “What do they feel they want to be remembered for when they pass on? And I don’t think when you think about it that way – it’s not going to be the fact that you owned two big fancy cars, or a big house or a swimming pool or a closet full of fancy clothes. I think you’re going to want to be remembered for something more than that, like things that I’ve done for other people things that I’ve done for society.” His message for the younger generations is, “The most important lesson is that we are biological creatures. We’re animals and our most fundamental need, if we want to stay healthy and survive, is clean air, clean water, clean soil that gives us our food, clean energy that comes from the sun and diversity of living things on the planet.”
As the years pass, and with such a mind as Suzuki’s, concepts become clearer and clearer. Considering he produced a biography at 50 and then 70, it’s not too much of a stretch to expect that as another ten years pass, another Suzuki film may be required. He insists this is the last. “Well it won’t be from me, I’ll probably be long gone,” he insists at the suggestion of another film in a decade. He is in fact well-known for being extremely healthy. (There’s an ivy leaf portrait floating around if you look not even very hard.) “As I say, I’m in the death zone now. When you get to be 75, and I will be next month, you’re in last part of your life. So far I’ve been very fortunate, I’ve got good health, but I know that at my age people are dropping like flies all around me and one day it’s gong to be me. I have no desire to look forward to ten more years. I’m going to do something else. No, that’s it for me,” he says, looking forward to focussing on spending time with his family, particularly his wife and grandchildren. Just before that though, he’s coming to Australia to speak at the Sustainable Living Festival, and the Australian premiere of Force Of Nature.
David Suzuki will give a talk before the screening of Force Of Nature at The Ford Fiesta Moonlight Cinema at The Royal Botanic Gardens on Sunday February 20. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for concession, $14 for children/pensioners and $33 for Gold Grass, for special important and classy people. Gates open at 7pm with screenings at sundown, approximately 8.20 – 9pm. Moonlight also features a licensed bar and catering by Soul Kitchen… or just BYO picnic and wine.
Following the film’s Australian premiere at Moonlight Cinema in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, the distributor of Force Of Nature , Curious Films, is inviting audiences to organise their own digital DIY charity screenings to raise funds for environmental projects in their communities or to assist those affected by the recent devastating floods, fire and cyclone events across Australia. DIY screenings can be arranged simply by contacting a local cinema or other venue to arrange a suitable date and by emailing email@example.com to arrange a copy of the film and promotional materials.
This article was first published in Beat magazine.