June 04, 2012

Tom Shadyac's 2011 documentary: "I Am"

I hadn't heard of this documentary until my friend Jan of PlanetJan, mentioned it on my article, Healing our Narcissistic Society. Jan is one of those teachers you wish your children had in school. Check her blog when you have time. She writes about teaching and she writes brilliantly about narcissism, too. Plus, she has a funny bone that runs all the way to her toes. Love you, Jan...thanks for recommending this film.

Note: this movie no longer available for a 'free viewing'
"I AM is a 2011 documentary film written, narrated, and directed by Tom Shadyac...In the film, Shadyac conducts interviews with scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists and philosophers including Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Lynne McTaggart, Elisabet Sahtouris, David Suzuki, Howard Zinn, and Thom Hartmann. The film asks two central questions: What's Wrong With the World? and What Can We Do About it? It is about human connectedness, happiness, and the human spirit..." ~Wikipedia
"You ever hear of Ace Ventura?" Tom Shadyac asks Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, two of my favorite thinkers of the 20th century. (Their reactions made it worth watching a clip of Jim Carey talking out of his ass.) Now if only Shadyac had interviewed Ralph Nadar...yummy!

"I Am" suggests our disconnection from one another is the foundation to a cultural "mental illness". He isn't calling out narcissism; he's describing the creeping crud of competition separating us from one another in a fractured social system destined for misery. Especially if you're on the bottom of the heap when the narcissists on the top are indifferent to your plight because they believe they deserve to be there.

If you've been learning your narcissism ABC's, you'll be touched by a film reinforcing the power of human connections as one-by-one, we do something to change the plight of the most vulnerable on our planet. I got me a nice house but as long as other people don't have one, too, there's no time to rest on my laurels. We need to do something. (Question: what are laurels and who rests on them? Does anybody know?)
"Roger Ebert gave the film a negative review, stating that the "film is often absurd and never less than giddy with uplift, but that's not to say it's bad. I watched with an incredulous delight, and at the end, I liked Tom Shadyac quite a lot...he offers us this hopeful if somewhat undigested cut of his findings, in a film as watchable as a really good TV commercial, and just as deep." ~Wikipedia
Haha, Ebert!! Well...Pppfffftttt!!! As far as how deep this documentary may be, I beg to differ; far be it for me to criticize Ebert's opinion though. He's a great guy. I love his movie reviews. Still, it makes me wonder if Shadyac had preached nihilism, misery, greed and competition, would people think the film was deep? For some reason, and this has bugged me my whole life, cooperation, empathy and love, get a bad rap in a cynical culture defining human nature on a Machiavellian scale of one's willingness to use aggression---no matter who we impact or what we destroy.   

To be honest, I didn't expect Tom Shadyac to come up with answers to philosophical questions most people haven't even asked themselves. The documentary is a good start reaching people who haven't questioned historical ideas about domination as innate, meritocracy divine.  

What's Wrong With the World? and What Can We Do About it? 

We don't have answers. We need to open the dialogue to find them. 

Shadyac's film asks What it means to be Human and the plausible response is that humans are born to be their brother and sister's keeper---it is the way we are wired. As Desmond Tutu says in the film:
"I depend utterly, completely, on other human beings in order to be human. The truth of who we are is that we are because we belong."
Love it or hate it, this film probes questions we need to be asking ourselves. And besides, any film with Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn gets two Thumbs Up from me. Maybe Shadyac can snag Nadar for a sequel. 

Hugs all,

Note: Howard Zinn (August 24, 1922 – January 27, 2010) was an American historian, academic, author, playwright, and social activist. Before and during his tenure as a political science professor at Boston University from 1964-88 he wrote more than 20 books, which included his best-selling and influential A People's History of the United States. He wrote extensively about the civil rights and anti-war movements, as well as of the labor history of the United States. His memoir, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train, was also the title of a 2004 documentary about Zinn's life and work. You can watch an interview with Howard Zinn on The WoN Cinema.


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this CZ. I tend to like to watch dark films with unsettling endings, so this isn't my usual film fare. But I found the film's message of how we're basically wired to be connected to others powerful. I walked into my classroom the next day and realized I was a bit more optimistic than the day before. Big Smile. For those struggling with someone with NPD, it makes the N's inability to maintain an emotional connection all the more unsettling. In these difficult and fractured times, I think the film asks some interesting questions and offers some interesting examples to help us move forward - together.

    1. I think it's a GREAT film, touching on highly relevant topics about human connections. Connections that are, as you wrote, based on emotions---not just cognitive appraisals of someone's usefulness in "our scheme of things."

      I have actually watched this documentary several times...just letting it play in the background while i work. It never fails to evoke loving emotions inside myself when I start feeling like the whole world has gone to hell in a hand-basket!

      People mirror what they see in the media, which makes a documentary like this important. "I Am" counters feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness and despair so often the result of doomsday documentaries.

      Once again, thank you so much for mentioning this film!



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