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As I Am: The Life and Time$ of DJ AM (Movie Review)

As I Am: The Life and Time$ of DJ AM (Movie Review)I was a little skeptical going into this film.  I got the distinct impression that this was just gonna be a documentary about some young white dude who got caught up in drugs and became famous by playing black music.  But what kept me glued to the screen was that I grew to understand that DJ AM actually had a profound respect not just for Rap and hip-hop music, but for the surrounding culture as well.  He spent a lot of time scouring through old record stores to find the origins of the beats we’re all familiar with today.  You combine all that with the fact that he might’ve been one of the most kind, generous and giving people in the music industry, and you realize just how much of a loss his passing truly was.

 As I Am: The Life and Time$ of DJ AM (Movie Review)
Film
There are some scenes that only include what seems to be an audio interview with DJ AM.  Accompanying this are a series of various clips reminiscent of early Grunge and Heavy Metal music videos.  This doc delves pretty deeply into AM’s fight with addiction to hard drugs.  Not just from the perspective or his friends and family, but also through audio recordings of him speaking at what sounds like AA meetings.  During these talks he goes into great detail as to how even at a young age he had sunk into a dark depression that lead him to attempt suicide.  But make no mistake, at no point does he try to place the blame for his addictions on any of the traumatic events that happened to him.  At one point he even says himself that ANYONE can’t get hooked on this stuff.  Doesn’t matter where you’re from or if you had the greatest childhood in the world.  It’s just that powerful.
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The way it’s filmed and edited kinda reminds me of early MTV.  They throw large font text at your face throughoutAs I Am: The Life and Time$ of DJ AM (Movie Review) the film as they introduce each person they interview.  At first it came off as a neat and creative way of setting it apart from other docs.  But after a while it starts to take away from the emotional content of the film.  It doesn’t totally RUIN anything. But it does become a bit distracting.
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We’re shown a detailed look into DJ AM’s life which has been fraught with trauma and abuse that you usually only hear about on the news.  When he asked his mom to check him into rehab in his mid teens he had no idea that that would end up being one of the worst decisions of his life.  Not the fact that he was trying to seek help for himself.  But the place he checked into turned out to be less of a Rehab facility, and more of a nightmarish torture chamber that subjected him to such endless abuse that he wouldn’t even tell his mom for fear that he might be punished even more.  There are others who survived this place who go on to confirm the horrors that AM experienced.  There was even a Congressional hearing that took place to look into the rumors that were going around that kids weren’t being treated for addiction but rather mercilessly tormented.*

They spend a lot of time talking about his fame and how it affected him for better or worse.  Which was great, and very insightful.  But, and maybe this is just the music nerd in me, but I had hoped that they’d delve deeper into his love and passion for music itself.  They do however touch on some of his mixing techniques and influences.  But it’s done so a very sparingly.  Again, maybe not EVERYONE would be as interested in having him or his friends explain what types of gear he used or his favorite records that he liked to spin as I would.*

There are some instances where they kinda repeat the same topics and opinions.  This could be attributed to the massive amount of people that are interviewed throughout the film.  Generally with a biographical doc such as this, they would try to keep the number of people interviewed to around 10 or so.  I lost count after a while but it seemed like I saw at least 20 different people.  So ultimately what you end up with is a documentary that tells you how to feel as it progresses as opposed to allowing you some down time to reflect on what’s just been said.When people think of what it is to be a DJ what usually comes to mind is just some person playing music from their iTunes account and occasionally seguing the songs into each other.  They don’t spend too much time on it here, but as I watched AM perform I came to realize that the Turn Tables are a real musical instrument that can be mastered and perfected.  He’s literally making music with his scratches and mixes and his timing is like watching a Kung-Fu master engage in hand to hand combat.

 As I Am: The Life and Time$ of DJ AM (Movie Review)
Summary
I highly recommend checking out this film. However, this isn’t a documentary about the collective human experience.  It very much focuses on a few key topics which are The life of a DJ, Electronic Music in the 90’s, Drug Addiction, and of course the life DJ AM himself.  So if you’re not even REMOTELY interested in any of these things, you may have a hard time getting into this doc.  But either way, I believe it served the memory of what seemed like a warm, generous and giving human being that unfortunately couldn’t treat himself with the same amount of kindness and ended up paying the ultimate price.
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“As I Am: The Life and Time$ of DJ AM” is now playing in theaters. Go to djamdoc.com to find a theater near you!

 As I Am: The Life and Time$ of DJ AM (Movie Review)
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Writer, Musician, Composer, Singer and Dancer. To sum up: I like to get jiggy with it!

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