Thursday, October 7, 2010

Force of Nature, the David Suzuki Movie, directed by Sturla Gunnarsson

I had the opportunity to see Force of Nature, as part of the Huronia Museum’s Film Series. I’m not a subscriber, because I just can’t commit to going to a movie every two weeks, but I love the chance to see movies that aren’t usually available outside Toronto or possibly Barrie.

David Suzuki is a charismatic man, who I didn’t really know that much about. I remember watching “The Nature of Things” when I was growing up, but at that stage in my life, it didn’t mean all that much to me. Who knew that he was a fruit fly geneticist?

The movie starts off with his “Legacy Lecture”. I think that this is far from his last kick at the can; this man has a lot of life left in him. He did say that he is in the last stage of his life. He spoke about that, in the last part of the movie, but not in a maudlin way. Perhaps it’s his nature as a scientist, to admit facts like that in a non-emotional way. Life is a cycle, and he will always be a part of this earth.

An overriding theme in this movie was isolation. His family was isolated from their fellow Canadians, by virtue of their Japanese heritage. His parents were born in Canada, but were subject to confinement in an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

He wasn’t accepted by the other kids there, because he was one of the only kids who didn’t speak Japanese. He spoke about being chased home from school, along the train tracks, where he was rescued by his father. His trip back to that camp was incredibly moving. He was seeing the place through a grown-up’s eyes, saw the powerlessness that his father and everyone else experienced, and saw his ‘people’ through the eyes of those that put them there.

After the camp, knowing that they weren’t accepted any longer in BC, they moved to Leamington, ON, a town who’s citizens were proud of the fact that a non-white person had never been in the town past sundown. Here is another study in isolation. David wasn’t allowed to date the white girls, and there were no other Asians there. He talked about spending time in the swamp, and how “the swamp saved my life”. He spent countless hours there, exploring, learning about the things that lived in the swamp, and began a love affair with science.

From Ontario, after grad school, he went to Tennessee where he was completely accepted… No, just kidding. He loved the opportunities for research that were available, that grew out of the US government’s generosity, wanting to throw money at anything that would help them win the space race. (I’m honestly not quite sure how a fruit fly geneticist had anything to add, but I’m sure he did. I just didn’t get the connection.) His family life suffered a bit there, he was spending 7 days a week in the lab, and his wife and kids were left to fend for themselves, for the most part. Isolated from his family, only at home in the lab.

Scenes of him giving these (what seemed to be) impromptu lectures in his hippie gear and requisite leather head band were… trippy, to say the least. He had this way of connecting to people, to get his point across without seeming sciency or preachy.

He found his connection, with the help of the Haida people, after joining in their fight to save their trees from the logging companies. Aboriginal peoples, more than anyone else, understand our connection to the earth and each other. I wish I could do justice to how he explains our connection to every other living, breathing, existing thing in this world. Suffice to say that the argon I breathe in and let out will stay here longer than I ever will, but it’s a part of me, and now it’s a part of you. We aren’t, we can’t be isolated, or live like we are. We are air, we are each other, and we are the earth. And the earth is us.