I Am (2010 American documentary film)

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I Am
I Am documentary 2011 Poster.jpg
Directed byTom Shadyac
Produced byJennifer Abbott
Dagan Handy
Written byTom Shadyac
Narrated byTom Shadyac
CinematographyRoko Belic
Edited byJennifer Abbott
Homemande Canvas Productions
Shady Acres
Distributed byFlying Eye Productions
Release date
  • October 2010 (2010-10)
Running time
76 minutes
CountryUnited States

I Am is a 2010 American documentary film written, directed, and narrated by Tom Shadyac. The film asks the question: "What is wrong with the world, and what can we do about it?", and explores Shadyac's personal journey after a bicycle accident in 2007 which led him to the answers "the nature of humanity",[1] "the world's ever-growing addiction to materialism", and "human connections" [2] Shot with Shadyac and a team of four,[3] the film contrasts sharply with the director's most notable comedic works.


Tom Shadyac suffered post-concussion syndrome after a bicycle accident in Virginia in 2007,[2] experiencing months of acute headaches, hyper-sensitivity to light and noise, and slept in a closet due to chronic tinnitus that lasted beyond a six-month period. It was this constant ringing that the doctors could not treat that led him to suicidal thoughts.[4] The injury followed the cumulative effects of previous mild head injuries Shadyac had suffered surfing, mountain biking and playing basketball.[5]

In 2011, a New York Times article stated that "the symptoms of a concussion [didn't] go away. Something as simple as a trip to the grocery store was painful for Shadyac, whose brain was unable to filter various stimuli. Shadyac subsequently gave away his excess fortune, opening a homeless shelter in Charlottesville, Virginia[1] and making a key donation to Telluride, Colorado's effort to set aside a natural area at the town's entrance.[6] He reoriented and simplified his life, sold his 17,000-square-foot (1,600 m2) Los Angeles mansion[2] and moved into a trailer park – albeit the exclusive Paradise Cove park in Malibu.[7] As medical treatments failed to help, he isolated himself completely, sleeping in his closet and walling the windows of his mobile home with black-out curtains. Later, as his symptoms finally began to subside, the director wanted to share his inner quest in the way he knew best: through film."[8] Shadyac likened the experience to Dante's Seventh Circle of Hell.[9]

Film context[edit]

In the film, Shadyac conducts interviews with scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists and philosophers including Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Lynne McTaggart, Elisabet Sahtouris, David Suzuki, Howard Zinn, and Thom Hartmann. The film asks two central questions:[10] What’s Wrong With the World? and What Can We Do About it?. It is about "human connectedness, happiness, and the human spirit",[3] and explores themes including Darwinism, Western mores, loneliness, the economy, and the drive to war. The documentary includes animated scenes explaining scientific concepts,[8] as well as clips from the films Wall Street and It's a Wonderful Life.[11]

Proceeds from the documentary went to the Foundation for I Am, which supports various charities.[12]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 36% based on 47 reviews, with an average rating of 5.16/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "I Am is undeniably well-meaning - and unfortunately proof that a filmmaker's best intentions aren't enough to guarantee a worthwhile viewing experience."[13] On Metacritic the film has a score of 38 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[14] The Los Angeles Times said the film was "a collection of sound bites that validate the filmmaker's point of view. What lifts the film above its dubious boilerplate assemblage of talking heads and archival images is Shadyac himself. With his gentle, self-mocking humor, he comes across as an exceptionally mellow, earnest and likable guy."[15] Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film a mixed review, awarding the film two stars out of four and stating that "the film is often absurd and never less than giddy with uplift, but that's not to say it's bad. I watched with an incredulous delight, and at the end, I liked Tom Shadyac quite a lot...he offers us this hopeful if somewhat undigested cut of his findings, in a film as watchable as a really good TV commercial, and just as deep. "[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Oldenburg, Ann (24 March 2011). "Director Tom Shadyac: 'I've been called crazy many times'". USA Today. Archived from the original on 7 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Harris, Paul (16 January 2011). "Tom Shadyac: the hit movie director who turned a camera on the Hollywood world he gave up". London: The Observer. Archived from the original on 19 June 2012.
  3. ^ a b Fisher, Sarah (8 April 2011). "Tom Shadyac is Not Your Typical Hollywood Director". Pepperdine Magazine. Archived from the original on 28 July 2013.
  4. ^ James Altucher (9 April 2014). "What Happens When You Give Away 50 Million Dollars and Move Into a Trailer Park?". James Altucher. James Altucher. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  5. ^ James, Karen (27 May 2010). "Tom Almighty! Shadyac's Doc Debuts at Mountainfilm". The Watch. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  6. ^ Bigelow, Bruce (10 May 2007). "Setback for S.D. industrialist, Telluride raises $50 million to block development plan". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the original on 18 October 2012.
  7. ^ Grigoriadis, Vanessa (March 2011). "Bohemian Cove". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012.
  8. ^ a b Saltz, Rachel (18 March 2011). "'I Am' by the Director Tom Shadyac". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Hartl, John (24 February 2011). "Interview: 'I Am' filmmaker Tom Shadyac steps back to explore the big picture". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on 12 July 2012.
  10. ^ Weckworth, Lynn (27 November 2010). "Bridgewater native co-produces 'I AM – The Documentary' by director Tom Shadyac". The Messenger Gazette. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012.
  11. ^ Hartl, John (24 February 2011). "'I Am': Rare feel-good documentary explores happiness and the meaning of life". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012.
  12. ^ Chammas, Lydia (26 March 2011). "'Ace Ventura' meets Bishop Desmond Tutu in Tom Shadyac's documentary 'I Am'". Washington Post.
  13. ^ "I Am (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  14. ^ "I Am Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  15. ^ Linden, Sheri (11 March 2011). "Movie review: 'I Am'". The L.A. Times. Archived from the original on 15 March 2011.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (21 April 2011). "I Am". rogerebert.com. Archived from the original on 12 October 2012.

External links[edit]