I AM -- the film

If you were to tell me that the guy who directed the blockbuster comedies: Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, and Bruce Almighty will make a documentary about an inquiry into the nature of life and its purpose – I probably wouldn’t have taken you too seriously. Except that he did. And it’s good.

I had the privilege of being at the pre-screening last night and was blown away by the film and its message. Tom Shadyac is in front of the camera for his film, "I AM", interviewing people, like Desmond Tutu, John Francis, Coleman Barks, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, among many others. It weaves his own personal story of Hollywood fame and a bicycling accident that led him into a lot of pain, which eventually got him to inquire further into his own existence.

The film focuses on two questions: what’s wrong with our world? And what can we do to make it better?

This entertaining film manages to seriously question the nature of nature and scientifically question science. It takes us through a journey of our own hearts and minds through the use of latest technologies. We’ve all heard of mirror neurons, which cause us to literally feel another person’s pain. With some researchers, he actually shows us the influence that each of our thoughts have on other living things (like the bacteria in a dish of yogurt, for example); and fascinatingly, how people in a conversation register each other's heart beat in their brain, without any physical contact. To some extent, we all understand that we’re interconnected, and yet that could seem a little abstract to some. This movie helps open our minds. And if we’re already open-minded, expand it further.

One question that’s always baffled me is: at a biological level, are we naturally born to cooperate or to compete? In Darwin’s, “The Descent of Man,” the word “love” is used 95 times while his most famous phrase, “survival of fittest,” appears only twice. Why are we as a society taught what we’re taught? Why not survival of the kindest? These are the big questions that are asked and answered, in an entertaining way. :) It differs from other documentaries of this nature that, it’s fun. I found myself laughing through much of it. It presents serious topics, but it’s not serious. In some sense, that’s where the experience of editing major films comes in handy. Tom Shadyac goes on a personal journey of discovery and takes us along.

A newspaper had asked a number of authors to write on the topic: “What’s wrong with the world?” Chesterton’s answer at that time was the shortest of those submitted – he simply wrote: “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton”. Shadyac shows us that perhaps the answer to: what is right with the world, can also be – I AM.


  1. Anonymous3/01/2011

    Sounds like a great movie. I'm planning on seeing it in S.F. this weekend.

  2. Anonymous3/02/2011

    That was an interesting experience that you shared. And I wish I could watch it too. But then the question "What is wrong with our world?" can be answered. Its not 'I am'. It's that, we have lost this precise CONNECTEDNESS, which the film tried to depict and explain. We do not feel connected to the world any more. We find altruistic experiences which gives us a glimpse of that feeling, but it is a global connectedness we require. The blatant indifference I see in people completely unnerves me, I feel that a lot of people are walking everyday with dead souls. Souls which would not make the slightest exertion to make someone happy, to make a difference, to make the world a better place. People have to be shown that a feeling like this actually exists and give them the opportunities to experience it themselves. But then for this process to attain maturation will take a really long time.

  3. Hi Arathi, it can certainly be a tough world out there at times, and in the end we only have control over changing ourselves. As challenging as it may seem (because we all want a conscious evolution globally), we have to start somewhere. Gandhi put it the best when he said, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world."

    And what I think the film is trying to say is that if each of us became a part of "solution" then the world would slowly change. Not overnight. but eventually. And we'd certainly be happier through the process. Hope that helps (sorry for the long-winded answer ... but I wanted to respond because I've had similar feelings at times.) Take Care.

  4. Thanks Guri for the nice post. Last week, we met a wandering monk on the Narmada river who was once an IIT rockstar and then who dropped out of Phd Physics program in the US. He has been wandering and doing Vipassana on the river for the last 30 years. He said, 'my goal is life is to take care of the biggest gunda (villian) in this world'. We asked him who this goon was. And he said, it is was himself :)

    cheers and hope to see the film soon.

  5. Samir, Narmada is always surrounded by such interesting people. 30 years! wow! I think he's onto something with taking care of the biggest villain withing. We forget that we can often be our biggest enemies -- the only ones that guide our lives. Hope you're doing well.

  6. Wow! How wonderful. I hope this film will come to Canada as I would sure love to see it! Thanks so much for sharing. Just found you're site (via a link from twitter) really nice stuff, I'll share and check back.