As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM
The phenomenon of celebrity DJ can be attributed in large part (if not solely) to Adam Goldstein, otherwise known as DJ AM. Credited as a pioneer of the “mash up”, he elevated the role of DJ from one of working anonymously in booths at clubs to becoming a worldwide main-stage headliner. AM all but dominated the dance music scene in both presence and influence from the late 1990s until his startling death from a massive drug overdose in 2009. The excellent documentary As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM chronicles the events, influences and people that shaped his legendary career and his untimely demise.
What made AM’s death at 36 years old particularly upsetting was that he ultimately succumbed to his addiction after over a decade of sobriety. Director Kevin Kerslake’s primary accomplishment with this film is that it’s as much about the disease of addiction as about the iconic DJ; the affliction is unflinchingly depicted without being preachy or heavy-handed. It is a near impossible task to effectively convey the psychic/physiological prison that chemical dependency creates to anyone lacking firsthand experience, yet Kerslake finds a way to do exactly that by utilizing audio recordings of DJ AM talking to other addicts in recovery as the primary narrative for the film. This device allows the film to focus on the fragility of sobriety in a manner that is stirringly effective. As distressing as it is to hear AM so eloquently articulate the insidious nature of the disease, while openly expressing a profound understanding of his own vulnerability, this is the key element that raises the material beyond a salacious “true Hollywood story” to one that inspires insightful, thought-provoking truths.
The film creates a balanced portrait of DJ AM through recollections by friends, family and associates. He wasn’t immune to the fits of ego that usually manifest with stratospheric fame, and that revealing candor lends credibility to the story. It’s interesting to note that, despite being “authorized by the estate of DJ AM”, there is no commentary from AM’s one-time fiancé, reality-star Nicole Ritchie, or his frequent collaborator, Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker (with whom he survived a deadly jet plane crash in 2008). One can only speculate as to why this is. Nevertheless, the rest describe a man who was keenly aware of his shortcomings and managed to stay grounded for the sake of helping others until he could no longer help himself. The tragic irony of it all makes the film’s dedication “to those still in the struggle” a poignantly fitting tribute.
As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM does not yet have a confirmed date of release.