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Friday, April 22, 2011

Movie Review: "I AM" – An Appropriate Film For Earth Day, Every Day & Everyone

Tom Shadyac has some very impressive credentials. His acting and comedic work dates back to being the youngest writer to ever work for the legendary Bob Hope. As a director his biggest commercial film successes include many of Jim Carry's blockbusters like, "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective", "Liar Liar", and "Bruce Almighty." He also directed Eddie Murphy in "The Nutty Professor" and Robin Williams in "Patch Adams."

Tom was not only talking the talk but walking the walk of a successful Hollywood director including buying 17,000 square foot mansions and private jetting around the world on buying sprees to fill them up with stuff. Really expensive stuff.

Then something happened along the way. While standing in the vast cavernous foyer of his castle he came to the realization that all his property and stuff was not making him any happier. This lavish lifestyle was actually causing a disconnect instead. It was time to reduce and simplify so he sold it all and moved into a mobile home community. Then a near death experience from a cycling accident handed him an epiphany and he felt compelled to tell a much bigger story. The story he calls I AM.

I am not known to run to the theater to see documentaries but normally just wait for them to roll on PBS. However, when my friend and industry colleague, Stacie Tamaki, called to rave about seeing Tom Shadyac on Oprah I knew the film would be well worth the price of admission.

This movie asks two profound questions, What's wrong with our world and what can we do about it? Shadyac plays the role of interviewer and presents some really remarkable minds from the worlds of science, philosophy, academia and faith. Here's the line up of A-List Luminaries:

1. Archbishop Desmond Tutu – South African activist and Christian Cleric.
2. David Suzuki – Environmental activist and Science Brodcaster
3. Norm Chomsky – Linguist, Philosopher, Cognitive Scientist and Activist
4. Howard Zinn – Historian, Author, Social Activist, Playwright, Professor
5. Lynne McTaggart – Journalist, Author, Publisher and Spokesperson
6. Ray Anderson – Founder & Chairman of Interface
7. John Francis – Environmentalist
8. Coleman Barks – Poet
9. Marc Ian Barasch – Author, Film & TV Producer, Editor and Activist

Shadyac digs deep into the world's problems aiming to find the root of all of them. His efforts turn up some startling discoveries like how the heart, not the brain might be man's primary organ of intelligence. He also turns conventional wisdom upside down showing that cooperation, not competition thrives among most other species.

Shadyac is no doubt a great storyteller. He is warm, enthusiastic and really optimistic in spite of the graveness of the situation. His curiosity is contagious and constantly engages you into the story. His humor keeps the conversations with all those super intellectual minds from getting too heavy.

Finally, what's not to love about someone who carries a torch for moderation? Tom Shadyac is not asking us to cut off our right arms or sacrifice our first borns but rather just consider the consequences of living in excess. He quotes St. Augustine, "Determine what God has given you, and take from it what you need; the remainder is needed by others." He also defers to Gandhi, "Live simply, so others my simply live."

It's a sensitive subject and one that is as old as some of the civilizations he exemplifies. But his personal story of abandoning excess for higher ground is uplifting, entertaining and really chalks one up in the plus column for celebrities.