Ace Ventura Director Tom Shadyac's I Am Searches For Answers At Gusman Tonight

Categories: Film and TV
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Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Tom Shadyac in contemplation.
You might know Tom Shadyac as the director of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty, and a bunch of other Hollywood mega hits. But you probably don't know what he's been up to lately. After a 2007 cycling accident that almost left him permanently incapacitated, Shadyac went off the deep end. At least that's what it looked like from Hollywood's point of view. He became unsatisfied even with his highly satisfactory life. He dumped much of his fortune and even moved to a trailer park.

And though he eventually went back to doing what he does best -- making movies -- his latest project is unlike anything else he has done. I Am, a documentary of Shadyac's personal journey, asks what's wrong with our world and what we can do to make it better. Shadyac is in Miami for a free screening of the film tonight at 7:30 p.m at the Gusman Center of the Performing Arts. We caught up with him before the screening to ask him about his enlightenment, and how we could get some for ourselves.

New Times: You're world got turned upside down when you had a cycling accident in 2007. From there you've reevaluated your life and decided to make major changes. Do you think you would have "seen the light" had you not had your accident?
Tom Shadyac: Generally don't know to answer what if questions, but I do know that what I'm doing now is part of who I am. It was going to come out at some point.

There's been a bit of a misunderstanding that the bike accident change my life. That's not what happened. I've been changing over 10 to 15 years. The bike accident caused me to talk about (the change). I faced death and would not have had the courage without bike accident to talk about it. I didn't' want to die with these ideas inside me.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, many people go through their lives without a traumatic moment that causes them to reevaluate their existence. In lieu of such a moment, any advice on how to propel somebody to make substantive changes in their life for the better?
It's no mystery. It's practice, if your true intention is to serve and seek truth and to know reality, to touch reality, practice will give you that. The Dalai Lama said when asked how to get to (an enlightened place) it's practice. He is now 76 and started seriously practicing when he was 13. They say you are what you eat, but what we think about, what you care about, what we spend our time doing is also who you are. If you are in rat race that is who you become. If you spend more time in meditation, reading, taking walks in nature, having conversations - conversation is beautiful -- that is who you become.

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Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Shadyac sees life through a new lens.
I Am seeks to answer two questions: What's wrong with the world? What can I do to make it better? Without giving away too much of film, what are the answers?
They're easy answers; or rather simple answers (but) we complicate the answers.
I don't want to give away the movie but part what's wrong with the world is how we are looking at it. In the film I call myself mentally ill -- the reason is that a mentally ill person doesn't see things as they are. There is a global mental illness; we don't see things as they really are. We see them as we are. How we are seeing the world is not exactly how it is. The solutions is part of the journey of the film.

What are some recurring themes you've heard from many of the great thinkers you filmed in response to questions in I Am?
There are too many.  Desmond Tutu has a line that's very emblematic of part of journey ---we are because we belong. In America we think of ourselves as individuals, but we can't even define a human out of context. Our first behavior is craving of the breast for milk, but also the craving of touch from a mother and father.

(The interviews in the film) put flesh on bone for me. I believed that we are all connected, that my energy effect yours but the film walked me into science of all that. I spoke to people studying it in practical way and was educated by how much research had been done to support (those ideas).

People might say it's unrealistic, utopian. I see it differently. I'm only interested in realistic. The film is the ultimate reality show. It's what's real, and about real things like how do our biological system survive, is love really a stronger force than hate. Gandhi said, if (love is not stronger than hate) don't listen to me.  I think love is more powerful than hate.  Sure, Hitler rises up, but he falls. Something programmed in us that knows that, otherwise we wouldn't survive. That is reality.

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