Sunday, January 22, 2012

i am

There is a great documentary out that I think everyone would like, even if you're not into documentaries. It was directed by Tom Shadyac, a name I was not familiar with. Yet the titles of his movies Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, Patch Adams, Bruce Almighty, etc were all familiar to me.

I probably wouldn't have heard of this film if it weren't for my Netflix "suggestions for you" page. The trailer looked amazing so I put it on top of my queue. I was blown away after watching it and watched it again two days later. I hated to return it and have decided to buy it. It's a keeper of a movie.

The film centers on the result of a life-changing experience Tom Shadyac had. After a serious bicycle accident, he developed a form off post-concussion depression, making him question his whole life and taking away his will to live. One day the depression inexplicably left him and he decided to grab a crew of 4 people and scout the world for the greatest scientists and other great thinkers to find out "[w]hat is wrong with our world and what can we do about it." The result is I AM.

The initial part of the film (his great success is Hollywood, the accident, depression, etc) only takes about the first five minutes. The rest is dedicated to interviewing others. Some of the more recognizable names are Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Desmond Tutu.

Some of the themes he focuses on are the following: whether humans are, by nature, competitive or cooperative; how science has proven we are actually connected to others; and whether our hearts or brains are the real center of our selves.

It sounds a little heavy and/or New-Agey. It's not. In fact, it's quite entertaining and the viewer rides the movie like a surfer on a wave. It's all backed by science, which makes it all the more mind blowing. And it's just fun to watch! Can't beat that combo!

One of the amazing things that stuck with me was that our vagus nerve is what makes us connect to all other living things. If you've ever watched those videos of returning soldiers surprising their children with their return, you probably felt great emotion at watching them, quite possibly tearing up. (They make me cry every single time.) The vagus nerve makes us empathize with others and want to help them. The documentary shows many examples of people reaching out to others.

While it's not an animal rights movie, the evidence garnered from his talks with these great thinkers all point to a compassionate lifestyle. The vegus nerve, for example, would explain why so many people don't want to know where their meat comes from. Why people get distraught at even the mention of the conditions of animals farmed for their flesh or their skins. Because our very nature is to empathize with the pain of others, and we don't want to think that our actions cause this pain in others. So most of us avoid it altogether, viewing it as Pandora's Box. Because once it's open, you can't turn back. You can't stuff it away. You have to look at it and make new choices. And "new" to many people is scary and overwhelming. (If that's you, please see babysteps.)

A great quote from one of the interviewees (I forgot to write down who said it):

"All of life is our biological kin. To me, the most amazing thing about the Human Genome Project was that it turns out over 99% of the genes in a human being are identical to the genes in our nearest relatives, the Great Apes. That the vast majority of genes in ourselves are identical to the genes in our pet dogs and cats  ... They are our relatives."

As far as changing our world to treat animals the way we'd want to be treated, consider the words of Desmond Tutu, (delivered with that wide smile and wonderful, lilting voice)

"How does change happen? It happens because you are concerned. And you are concerned. And you are concerned. And you have a coordination that becomes this movement. And it overcomes apartheid."

Rollin Mccraty, who works at HeartMath, notes, "What we do at the individual level really does affect the global environment."

So here is the trailer for the film.

And here is an interview with Tom Shadyac on the making of the movie. And I'm not going to ruin the fun for you, but you MUST watch it, if only to see the yogurt experiment and what scientists discovered when they observed a herd of Red Deer.

After doing a little research for this post, I found that Oprah had done an interview with Tom when the film came out. You can read about that here.

I hope you treat yourselves soon and watch this! I'm told it's On Demand and also showing on OWN. And, as I mentioned before, you can get it on Netflix.

After you've seen it, I'd love to hear your thoughts below! Nobody I know (except for Ryan and my friend Jack and his fiance) have seen it and I'm just dying to talk about it with others! Enjoy!


  1. You're right. The footage of that little boy seeing his dad and saying, "I just missed you, daddy" brought tears to my eyes. This sounds like an interesting and compelling documentary. I look forward to checking it out. And great post!

  2. Let me know what you think of the movie, Cadry! And I'm glad you told me what the little boy said. I could never make out the words! :)