"AS I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM," the riveting new documentary from director Kevin Kerslake on the meteoric rise and untimely death of the first superstar DJ, Adam Goldstein, known to millions as DJ AM, opens with a grainy point-of-view shot from a police car's dashboard camera. We immediately find ourselves speeding toward a great, mysterious fireball in the sky ahead. It is a ghoulish allegory for the film itself: Although we are not sure where we are going, we know it is someplace bad.
It is a disconcerting exercise, taking in these biopic films of bright lights in the world snuffed out too soon. We know how they end, so we parse through the moving images, trying to make sense of it all and to trace where things went wrong. But, unlike recent chronicles on the lives of Kurt Cobain ["Montage of Heck" 2015] and Amy Winehouse ["Amy" 2015] which shared common themes of struggles with fame and success, and miserable, hopeless addiction, DJ AM's story is very different. He had embraced his celebrity and found a rhythm in his fast-paced career. His sobriety was a religion for him, an essential part of his character and persona. Ostensibly, he was happy and full of life. It makes the details of his final act all the more shocking and heartbreaking.
Adam Goldstein was always a soulful, precocious kid. Growing up in New Jersey in the hedonistic "Me Decade" of the 1970s, a lax attitude toward drugs developed, reinforced by the habits of his estranged father. Soon, Adam and his mother would leave, heading for a new life out West in sunny Los Angeles. A chubby misfit, Adam would immerse himself in the burgeoning Hip-Hop music scene, forming sophomoric B-boy crews and dabbling with breakdancing and freestyle rap. Music had become his new obsession. When a DJ friend was away on an extended road trip, Adam got his hands on the friend's turntables, delving into the fundamentals of DJing through long, furtive bedroom sessions. Right away he had an uncanny aptitude for spinning and, by the time his dismayed friend had returned home, Adam had surpassed him. DJ AM was born.
Kerslake does a brilliant job of storytelling, splicing together a lifetime of extant material – old photographs and home videos – with spectacular graphic animations and heartfelt present-day interviews from Adam's family, friends, and colleagues, including luminaries like Diplo, Mark Ronson, A-Trak, Paul Oakenfold, Z-Trip, Steve Aoki, Jazzy Jeff, Mixmaster Mike, Pasquale Rotella, and Jason Bentley. They attest not only to his tremendous raw talent and determination but also his humility and deep compassion that touched so many people's lives. The film’s pacing and style captures the frenetic speed and dynamism of Adam's life as well as introspective moments of candor and insight. Authorized by his estate, "AS I AM" is a comprehensive and tender look at the life of a troubled young boy who overcame staggering adversity to rise up and change the DJ game, taking it to previously unimaginable heights, before tragically succumbing to the demons that dogged his life and career.
As befits a film about Adam's life and work, AS I AM’s soundtrack is as eclectic as his own signature style, showcasing musical performances and music by Daft Punk, Justice, Outkast, Elton John, The Doors, The Ramones, Blondie, Black Sabbath, Talking Heads, The Outfield, Fischerspooner, Zoë Keating, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Gang Starr, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and many other artists.
Now, after a triumphant reception on the festival circuit from Tribeca to Toronto, "AS I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM" kicks off a national theatrical tour in more than 30 cities, including a full week of shows premiering tonight at Hollywood's Arclight Theater. A complete list of dates is below.
5/27/16 Village East (full week) New York, NY
6/1/16 Brenden Theatres Las Vegas, NV
6/1 & 8/16 UltraStar Mission Valley San Diego, CA
6/2/16 Angelika Carmel Mountain San Diego, CA
6/2/16 Angelika Pop UP Washington, DC
6/2/16 Consolidated Ward Honolulu, HI
6/2/16 Reading Manville Manville, NJ
6/2/16 Capitol Theatre Cleveland, OH
6/2/16 Southside Works Pittsburgh, PA
6/2/16 Frida Cinema Santa Ana, CA
6/2/16 Angelika Dallas Dallas, TX
6/2/16 Cobb Dolphin 19 Miami, FL
6/2/16 Cobb Plaza Cinema Café Orlando, FL
6/2/16 Cobb Tyrone Luxury 10 St. Petersburg, FL
6/2/16 Pickford Film Center Bellingham, WA
6/2/16 Angelika Mosaic Fairfax, VA
6/3/16 Arclight Hollywood (full week) Los Angeles, CA
6/3/16 Gateway Film Center Columbus, OH
6/7/16 Cineplex Cinemas Park Lane Halifax, NS, Canada
6/7/16 Cineplex Yonge-Dundas and VIP Toronto, ON, Canada
6/7/16 SIE Film Center Denver, CO
6/9/16 Bow Tie Palace Hartford, CT
6/9/16 Providence Place Cinemas Providence, RI
6/10/16 Dairy Center for The Arts Boulder, CO
6/12/16 Hollywood Theatre Portland, OR
6/13/16 Alamo Drafthouse--The Ritz Austin, TX