The Nature of Things, by Jack Fleischer

Force of Nature is essentially a staged lecture from noted Canadian scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki. Fans of American public television may recognize him from the 1993 PBS series The Secret of Life or as the host of the CBC’s The Nature of Things. The lecture used as this documentary’s centerpiece is specifically his “Legacy Lecture” which is then supplemented with conversations with Suzuki about his life in locations from his past from across the globe. I have long been a casual fan of Suzuki’s work, but this documentary has exponentially increased my admiration.A second generation Canadian, Suzuki and his family were forced into Japanese internment camps at the start of the Second World War. Inside these camps he was considered an outsider who couldn’t even speak Japanese. This forced isolation then carried through to the United States where his family moved and became the first non-whites to live in a small Oklahoma town. Yet through all this racial discrimination he succeeded in becoming both a prominent scientist, and a pop culture figure who then turned to television to try and bring his understanding of science to the masses.What starts as a filmed autobiography, becomes a deep exploration into the various natural forces that forced a young man from British Columbia into becoming an environmental scientist and activist. Where this film most succeeds is in showing us why Suzuki thinks as he does. Then, instead of showing us why we should believe as he does, it lets him try and do the convincing.For starters, “The Legacy Lecture” that serves as the foundation for this movie (a cross between An Inconvenient Truth and Randy Pausch’s “The Last lecture”) is fantastically produced and is well translated to the screen. It’s truly amazing to watch this 75-year-old address a crowd with the energy and passion of a man a third of his age.Then, this film takes us outside the walls of his talk, and brings us in a tour round the world. We visit the internment camp of Suzuki’s youth. We travel to Hiroshima, where he talks poetically, and tragically, about the nature of being a person trapped in the greatest single explosion man has ever seen. Then we travel to a racially divided American South where Suzuki first discovered his love of nature and science as a way to divert his societal frustrations. All the while we are given lush and grand beauty shots of the natural world that he’s devoted his life to.Suzuki appears both humble and emotionally vulnerable as he talks frankly about how his frustrations and even his occasional shortcomings were made better by looking at the world in a different way.I think that even a person who doesn’t care about the environment and has no idea who Suzuki is, will leave this documentary caring about the man. I went in curious to hear about a person I thought I knew, and I’ve walked away wanting to explore the world in the same way he has.

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