By Samantha Sawh
The first Green Film of the semester, titled I Am, brought the world under a broad focus. It didn’t ask about the environment, rising sea levels or energy waste. The film opened with two much larger questions: What is wrong with the world, and what can humanity do to fix it?
These questions came from the mind of Tom Shadyac, the director of I Am, as well as other popular comedies such as Bruce Almighty, Ace Ventura and Liar Liar. After suffering a biking accident, Shadyac slipped into depression and began thinking about his legacy. He reflected on his life and the state of the world. Gradually, he came out of his depression and began a story of reflection and worldliness that would eventually become I Am.
Shadyac took a small production team and traveled the globe, speaking to various scientific and cultural figures about the two questions he began with. He speaks with people such as Desmond Tutu, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and more. They all came to a single conclusion about what the world’s real issue is — and they all agree that it’s people.
I Am addresses issues such as materialism and competition in society, as well as critiquing the selfish behavior of humans. They film says humans have lost compassion and no longer care about the environment, animals, the state of the world or, most of all, each other.
Although it seems almost idealistic and overly optimistic at first, Shadyac and his interviewees justify this opinion with real fact. For example, the film points out that although many cite Charles Darwin’s theory on natural selection as reasoning for why humans are innately competitive, Darwin also used the word “love” very frequently in his writings.
Another commonly rejected notion that the film reflects on is the idea that all life is connected. Shadyac becomes a testament to this when he is wired to a dish of yogurt on an electro-magnetic reader, because the bacteria in the yogurt would respond to his emotions. Sure enough, in a humorous bit where they mention his ex-wife and his lawyer, the yogurt showed changing readings as a response to Shadyac’s stress.
I Am in itself is a documentary about rediscovering the love in the world, and implementing it in society, as opposed to perpetuating selfishness and materialism. On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be about sustainability at all.
However, the movie discusses issues like the lack of regard for the planet and how people take too much from it as a product of our selfish natures.
“An ocean, a rainforest, the human body, are all co-operatives,” Shadyac said in the film. “The redwood tree doesn’t take all the soil and nutrients, just what it needs to grow. A lion doesn’t kill every gazelle, just one. We have a term for something in the body when it takes more than its share. We call it cancer.”
I Am blends humor, science and personal philosophies into an upbeat, emotional look at the human condition. By the end of the film, Shadyac offers an answer to the first of the questions he began with. When asked what was wrong with the world, he replies, “I Am,” saying that all people should find that same answer.
When asking a new question, “What is good in the world?” Shadyac hopes humanity can one day reach the point where the answers will all hum together and are the same: “I Am.”
Although I Am was shown last week, the documentary can still be purchased on Amazon or viewed on Amazon Prime Video or Netflix.
The next Green Film, titled Just Eat It, will be shown Tuesday Oct. 13 and Thursday Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. in Sweigart 115.