Photo: Gone fishin'...with a Force of Nature

Sturla Gunnarson directs Force of Nature, a movie of David Suzuki's life and legacy

By Leanne Clare

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What finally convinced a reluctant Sturla Gunnarsson to do a documentary about the life of Dr. David Suzuki was the chance to go fishing with a Canadian icon.

"David is a serious fisherman and I'm a fisherman and I knew that if I did this film we would get to fish together and that would be great," says Mr. Gunnarsson, the award–winning Canadian director of films like Rare Birds and Such a Long Journey.

The director questioned what new perspective he could possibly bring to the life of one of Canada's best–known personalities.

"When I met David, I realized there is somebody here I haven't met before. I decided if I could get that person out on film that would be very exciting," Mr. Gunnarsson says.

Thus began Force of Nature, the first feature film about the life and legacy of David Suzuki. Mr. Gunnarsson and his crew follow Dr. Suzuki through Canada, the United States, and Japan as he retraces the story of his life. The film is also a journey through some of the most important moments in modern history: Canada's Japanese internment camps, the bombing of Hiroshima, the rise of '60s counterculture, and the development of the environmental movement.

But the personal stories behind the historical facts are what will leave audiences with a whole new perspective on Dr. Suzuki's life and motivation.
"It is a process of discovery for both David and the audience. David is discovering things about himself in the moment and we get to watch that on screen. It isn't the facts; it's the meaning of the facts that makes it new," Mr. Gunnarsson says.

Mr. Gunnarsson prides himself on his questioning and skepticism. He doesn't call himself an environmentalist and says he's suspicious of anyone who's sure of anything. But he says making the film with Dr. Suzuki prompted him to reflect on ideals he once held and realize how far he may have drifted from them.

"David has been so much a consistent moral rudder it made me curious. Is he so deeply entrenched in his views that he is able to cut through the noise and can remain true to his ideals, or is he just dogmatic? As I got to know him I found him to be incredibly consistent and credible," Mr. Gunnarsson says. "He really does walk the talk."

As to why Dr. Suzuki has managed to stay true to those ideals, Mr. Gunnarsson brings it all back to Dr. Suzuki's love of science and fishing.
"I think David is willing to accept the contradictions in life. For example, he loves to catch and eat fish. But because he likes to fish, he wants to make sure there are still fish to catch," he says.

Mr. Gunnarsson made sure that he and Dr. Suzuki pulled out their rods and reels during the filming of Force of Nature. But when asked who caught more fish, Mr. Gunnarsson only laughs and says, "That's the one question you've asked that might actually compromise our relationship... so I'll have to say we came up even."