Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tom Shadyac - Hollywood Director

"Coincidence is God's way of staying anonymous."

Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor, Bruce Almighty…the guy is behind some of the biggest comedies of our generation. Yet, his most significant work is likely to be a documentary that seeks to answer two rather sober questions: What’s wrong with the world, and what can we do about it? I Am is the name of this work, and though Christian readers will recognize it as a Biblical reference, Shadyac claims it to be serendipitous, albeit one that was not an accident. (Dialog)

Several articles on the web state that 2011’s I Am is the product of a journey that began after Shadyac’s 2007 biking accident, an accident which left him with a concussion and lasting head trauma. Plagued with migraines and other symptoms, the director did not even know how long he had to live. It was a dark night of the soul, to be sure, but it was merely one more stage in the spiritual journey that has been Shadyac’s life, not the start of it.

Though Shadyac was raised Roman Catholic, he questioned its dogma and "exclusivity" for years. Questioning, however, is a good thing when done in the interest of pursuing truth, and it is at the very heart of our faith to seek out truth. As is clear from his having read Augustine and Thomas Merton, not to mention the rest of this LIST, Shadyac is very active in this pursuit. When asked about what he finds in common with all the spiritual authors he’s read, he answers:
“They all go within, where you have to remove yourself from the distractions of the world and find yourself within[…]But there's this intuition, that voice inside saying there's something to this. And that's what faith is. That's what I find in all the great religions--quiet down, be still and know that I am God. Go into that quiet place, Jesus said, and shut the door. And listen for me there. And then bring that out into the world.” (Beliefnet)
To listen to that voice, he attends silent retreats and practices Lectio Divina.

Though I Am took him to thinkers from all over the world, and through the depths of human existence, it was not his only film to ask hard hitting questions. Does the truth really set us free? See Liar Liar (1997). Is God ambivalent toward our suffering? See Patch Adams (1998). And, of course, how do you get someone to love you without affecting free will? 2003’s Bruce Almighty brings us God’s response via Morgan Freeman: “Welcome to my world, son.”

Yet, if Shadyac’s journey could only be evidenced by his portfolio, there’d be a superficialness to it.

God demands much more than our skin deep affections; He is known for demanding us in our entirety, and it should be noted that Shadyac’s extreme downsizing from an extravagant Hollywood lifestyle to a mobile home park, one that had made him grow rich in neighbors and happiness, was a gradual process that predated the bike crash. What the bike crash did was to compel him to open up about his journey, and in doing so invite others to see what connects humanity, the good and the lack thereof.

A cool cat caveat:

I found several articles that designate Tom Shadyac as a “professed” and a “devout” Catholic, and he may well be, but those words mean very little in a society where “Catholics” openly support abortion, same-sex marriage, and the infringement of Catholics’ liberties. This makes searching for cool cats difficult. Though my research didn’t turn up any mention of the sacraments, I’ll let Shadyac speak on his own behalf: “Do I support this or that? Am I pre-Vatican II or post-Vatican II? Jesus said, ‘You understand the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law,’” he said. “If Catholic means I have some exclusivity on the truth, I would say no, but (yes) if you say I’ve given my full life and my heart to God and given myself over to Jesus.” (Dialog)

In any case, I believe his spirituality is a Catholic one, even if I cannot vouch for what manifests in his practice of the religion.

More on Tom Shadyac:
I Am Official website
"Crossing Over With Tom Shadyac" (Beliefnet)
"From Ace to the Almighty" (Christianity Today)
"I Am grew from Catholic director's spiritual journey" (The Dialog)
"Interviewing Tom Shadyac" (Indie Movies Online)

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