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Summary of I Am by Tom Shadyac

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As a fellow ONE member and a firm believer in the interconnectedness of our world, I am always looking for new ways to help bridge the gaps within my community and within society as a whole. Recently, my friend recommended I watch the documentary “I Am.” She claimed that as a result of watching this film, she felt more connected and obligated than ever before to the world she was a part of. Being a philosophical and existential junkie, I knew I had to check this out for myself.

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I AM is an utterly engaging and entertaining non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better? The filmmaker behind the inquiry is Tom Shadyac, one of Hollywood’s leading comedy practitioners and the creative force behind such blockbusters as “Ace Ventura,” “Liar Liar,” “The Nutty Professor,” and “Bruce Almighty.” However, in I AM, Shadyac steps in front of the camera to recount what happened to him after a cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly for good. Though he ultimately recovered, he emerged with a new sense of purpose, determined to share his own awakening to his prior life of excess and greed, and to investigate how he as an individual, and we as a race, could improve the way we live and walk in the world. Armed with nothing but his innate curiosity and a small crew to film his adventures, Shadyac set out on a twenty-first century quest for enlightenment. Meeting with a variety of thinkers and doers–remarkable men and women from the worlds of science, philosophy, academia, and faith–including such luminaries as David Suzuki, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Lynne McTaggart, Ray Anderson, John Francis, Coleman Barks, and Marc Ian Barasch — Shadyac appears on-screen as character, commentator, guide, and even, at times, guinea pig. An irrepressible “Everyman” who asks tough questions, but offers no easy answers, he takes the audience to places it has never been before, and presents even familiar phenomena in completely new and different ways

The result is a fresh, energetic, and life-affirming film that challenges our preconceptions about human behavior while simultaneously celebrating the indomitable human spirit. The pursuit of truth has been a lifelong passion for Shadyac. “As early as I can remember I simply wanted to know what was true,” he recalls, “and somehow I perceived at a very early age that what I was being taught was not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

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All in all, but the optimism he revels in as his inquiry winds up feels earned. There is scientific evidence backing up much of the wisdom. The heart apparently does talk to the brain more than the other way around. A scientist does put sensors into a bowl of yogurt to illustrate how Shadyac’s own emotions can actually impact that yogurt sitting in front of him

When he merely mentions his lawyer, the meter swings madly into the negative, one of the funnier moments of a film that has more than a few. Docs have been coming down on humanity so hard in recent years -- from An Inconvenient Truth to the latest Oscar winner, Inside Job -- that it’s refreshing to bask in a bit of optimism coming from a nonfictional film. Indeed, what can be more optimistic than Shadyac filming himself back on his bicycle racing down the Malibu canyons? Of course, he is wearing a helmet.

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