Monday, July 11, 2011

I AM (2011)


Stars: Tom Shadyac, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Coleman Barks

Director: Tom Shadyac

Genre: Documentary

Tom Shadyac was a successful director of mainstream films (The Nutty Professor, Bruce Almighty, Ace Ventura) who lived a successful person's typical lifestyle of having more than he needed: A mansion with more rooms than would ever be occupied, fancy cars, private jets, etc. Not so strangely enough, (to anyone rich or poor with a developed spiritual side) he came to the realization that he was no happier because of it. Then, after a bicycle accident that left his long- term health outlook in jeopardy, he had a shift in consciousness. The proverbial light bulb going off in his head. He stepped back and took an honest look at the futility of a consumerist society addicted to getting more, having more, and keeping up with and surpassing the Joneses--stoked by the planned obsolescence of accelerating advances in technology.

So he headed out with a camera crew of four --bent upon finding the answers to two questions:

What's wrong with our world?

What can we do about it?

The result is his film titled: I AM. In similar style to the 2004 documentary, What The Bleep Do We Know?, Shadyac's movie features interviews with scientists, philosophers, and spiritual leaders-- augmented by animation, and lots of clips of wild animals and wild people. But while both films have a metaphysical bent, I AM is ultimately more down to earth--looking at the practical side of life on our planet, espousing the ideology that human beings were designed to cooperate--for the resulting benefit of all--rather than be in constant competition with one another. We may live in the illusion that we are separate drops of salt spray crashing against the rocks for this briefest of moments, but it reality we belong to the ocean...we ARE the ocean. In other words, we are all connected at a fundamental level. Shadyac interviews the likes of Bishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and poet Coleman Barks to help illuminate his point.

Indigenous cultures view wanting and having more than we need as a sign of MENTAL ILLNESS. I can't disagree with that. Why would anyone want to have more than they NEED, unless they're planning to spread some of the wealth around? (Like Bill and Melinda Gates!) The answer is obvious. Those mansions on the hill are monuments to vanity and inflated ego.
I AM argues convincingly that if material gain is your primary motivation in life, you are heading down an ultimately disappointing dead end road.

If you resonate with a movie like I AM, then most of what is contained therein will come as no big revelation--so in that sense, Tom Shadyac is preaching to the choir. Nonetheless, this is a truly uplifting film. If you think of it as a steaming pile of woo-woo, you'll probably go right from the theater to purchase that latest Smart Phone on your already maxed-out credit card, honking and flipping off other drivers along the way.

Grade: B +