Force of Nature
David Suzuki works as a scientist, educator and environmental activist. Neither of those are easy jobs as this provocative, inspirational documentary about him shows, but they're certainly valuable ones to society and, above all, evolution. Suzuki comes across as articulate, candid, energetic, charismatic and even a bit funny at times. You'd never guess that he's actually 75 years old. Among his many messages that he tries to get across is the importance of making the right decisions that protect the environment for the benefit of future generations.
Fortunately, director Sturla Gunnarsson balances the footage of Suzuki lecturing with interviews with him that provide background info about his childhood growing up as a Japanese in Canada during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. If she were to have included too much background info about him, you'd end up yearning for the more important aspects of the doc, i.e. Suzuki's messages, so it's great that she finds the right balance between the two. Moreover, the interviews with Suzuki serve as an effective way to let the audience breathe after being bombarded with so much food for thought from his lecture. It's a testament to his humility when he admits he didn't realize that his work as a scientist is a form of contribution to a large pool of knowledge from other seemingly different fields of study (like water drops forming a lake) until a student had reminded him of that. Suzuki stresses the importance of looking at the bigger picture. Everything we do, and don't do, has an impact on nature because we live symbiotically with the natural world. It's not good for evolution for anyone to be profligate. As he perceptively points out, capitalism is not fundamentally a force of nature; it's something that man invented/created. He wisely asks a very basic yet crucial question for all of us to think about: What is the economy, and who is it really meant for? Good luck finding an honest answer to that question if you were to ask that to an economist. Admittedly, though, brilliant, selfless minds like Suzuki's are certainly far and few between in a world where people are getting increasingly rude, insensitive, inconsiderate and materialistic as they become more attached to technology, i.e. Blackberries, iPods, etc.., while losing touch with how to communicate with human beings face to face. Suzuki faces even more of an uphill battle given that a Finance professor of mine at Hunter College, who will remain nameless, indoctrinates his students by insisting that he likes greed and selfishness, that they're both good for society, and that one should only care about oneself. It's uplifting to know that a powerful documentary like Force of Nature comes along every now and then to debunk that neo-fascist Hunter professor who belongs teaching in 1930's Germany.
Lads & Jockeys
In Moulin à Vent, a small boarding school located in the village of Chantilly, France, thirty young boys and girls train to become stable-lads and jockeys. This documentary focuses on the experiences three of those lads and jockeys-in-training, namely, 14-year-old Florian, Steve and Flavien, at Moulin à Vent. You watch as they struggle to get up from bed at 5 AM to start their training day. Their trainer reminds them that they’ll be riding the horses regardless of whether it’s cold or rainy outside, and that not all of them will necessarily be able to become jockeys. Not surprisingly, it takes a lot of hard and tiring work for them to learn their horse-racing skills.
Director Benjamin Marquet does a decent job of showing what Florian, Steve and Flavien do day by day at Moulin à Vent, and even follows them for their brief visit to Paris. The footage of them riding the horses is quite captivating and even a little bit thrilling as you watch the horses gallop. One of the boys complains that his helmet’s too big and jacket’s too small, but he still continues his training. He and the others learn how to pay close attention to their horses. Their trainer tells them that they should feel free to talk to those horses, too. While all of those training scenes are somewhat interesting, audience members unfamiliar with horse racing will be scratching their heads every now and then, i.e. when the trainer uses the word “canter,” a term related to horse-racing that’s left undefined. It seems that Marquet assumes that you already know what that word or others mean, or why horse-racing really matters to begin with. To provide more insight, Marquet could have at least interviewed one of the trainers who might’ve been able to explain what neophytes need to know about horse-racing in layman’s terms. He only shows glimpses of the boys’ relationships with their family, such as when one of them speaks to his father over the phone. Perhaps interviews with the boys would have also helped to enrich the film with more information about what these boys are thinking and feeling about anything just so that you can get to know them better. Sans sufficient insight, Lads & Jockeys feels incomplete and a tad underwhelming, but quite heartfelt and mildly engaging nonetheless.