I couldn’t help it, with a film titled “I Am” it just seemed fitting to share it with the readers at The Curator, the web publication of IAM. Plus, the theme was applicable. It’s a film about one man’s journey to answer some of the most profound questions of life: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better?
The man on this journey is Tom Shadyac, a Hollywood film director whose comic blockbusters, “Ace Ventura,” “Liar Liar,” “The Nutty Professor” and “Bruce Almighty” had earned him a luxurious lifestyle and hefty bank account. However, after an accident leaves Shadyac with a debilitating injury, he finds himself looking for deeper meaning and purpose in life. The film follows Shadyac as he interviews visionaries like Bishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. Noam Chomsky, historian Dr. Howard Zinn, physicist Lynne McTaggart, and poet Coleman Banks. Along the way he sheds the trappings of his success, such as wealth and excessive consumption, and finds a simpler, more rewarding path.
At first I was put off by the way in which Shadyac displays the act of throwing off his wealth. I wondered if he wanted me to like him more because I had seen the vast mansion he had left behind. But I couldn’t relate to it at all. I didn’t like him because of his wealth. Why had he ever wanted to live in such a den of excess to begin with? Didn’t the private jet feel like too much?
Most of the people I know work hard for their livings and they don’t earn the kind of compensation Shadyac was accustomed to. They tend to be generous and hospitable. They don’t have everything, but what they have is yours to share in, for the most part. But maybe that becomes more of a challenge the more you have. I began to see just how difficult it must have been to let go of wealth, not just to lose your individual comforts, but how it will affect those around you. All those with riches, everyone entrenched in the pursuit of wealth, will feel condemned by this act.
We all know this feeling or a similar shade of it. Maybe a guest comes over and, with empty beer bottle in hand, says “Where is your recycling?” but you haven’t gotten around to setting up the bins to organize your waste, instead you just pile it all in the garbage, shamefully. Or maybe you neglected to vote one year and your coworker wants to commiserate about how crowded the poles were. Or maybe your friend goes on a service trip to build houses in New Orleans while you go skiing in Lake Tahoe. Whatever it is that you want to be achieving, the person you think you should be, the behavior you envision yourself doing, it stings to see others doing it while we fail. Not only that, but we might even resent those people, just as, I imagine, Shadyac’s neighbors, and all those in elite tax brackets, might harbor disdain for Shadyac; he makes them look bad.
During the course of the film, Shadyac deftly transforms those feelings of guilt, resentment or powerlessness into potential for lasting change. He confirms our instincts that little things count, that we are all connected and that it is the percentage of giving, not the quantity that matters. The film arrives at a place of affirmation and positivity, leaving viewers feeling excited about the potential steps they too can take to better the world. Exiting the theater, we were all asking one another what we could do to make the world better, not just ruminating on what Tom Shadyac was doing.
Despite the similarity of names, I Am is not affiliated with International Arts Movement, publisher of The Curator.