Annecy, China, Lion dance

I Am What I Am

Haipeng Sun
China · 2021 · 99 min
Chinese with English Subtitles

When we first meet Juan he (like us) is awestruck by the powerful, balletic artistry of a traditional Chinese Lion Dance troupe. It’s a dance that requires incredible concentration, strength and grace all while wearing elaborate and heavy costumes and the team who seems poised for victory is interrupted by a mysterious interloper. A chase ensues and Juan suddenly finds himself abetting their escape. Turns out the skilled new dancer is a girl also named Juan and before she disappears again she gifts him with the ornate Lion headpiece she was wearing. Juan finds purpose and determination through the encounter and rounds up his rag-tag group of friends (Cat and Dog) to form the world’s most unlikely lion dance troupe. Even more unlikely is the mentor they seek out, a once promising star in the dance world who is now living a very different life as a fishmonger. Together the group goes on the impossible mission of getting ready for the biggest competition in the country, but just when their dream seems within reach harsh reality complicates matters.

By the end of the film you will be on the edge of your seat rooting for Juan and his longshot team, ready to leap to your feet, likely not with the grace of the dancers, but with the enthusiasm for a character you’ve been cheering on the entire time. I Am What I Am adds original flair to the well-loved underdog genre and envelopes that world in impressive animation with a keen eye on light and movement. (ANIMATION IS FILM)

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