The utterly haunting I AM Norman is a powerful short film that distills the effects of gay conversion therapy in the fictional story of one of its survivors. Written and performed by Arron Blake, we meet the deeply scarred Norman, living in his car on the outskirts of society. We see his lonely existence and what he does to pass the time. We also learn that he is a survivor of gay conversion therapy who provides a rather novel service for other “survivors.” Exploring the repercussions of the mental and emotional scars of conversion therapy, still legal in 100 countries worldwide, Blake along with co-producer and director Darius Shu have one message—this is not okay.
The short, shot in a faux-documentary style, opens with Norman, the kindly recluse, chatting to the camera. He’s been living in his car for the past 4 years after a failed acting career and rejection by his family for being gay. A survivor of conversion therapy, he takes the “film crew” to spots in the forest where he was forced to carry backpacks of rocks or made to fight other patients in a show of masculinity. Twitching and rife with nervous ticks, Blake’s performance evokes sympathy for a broken soul discarded. His artistic aspirations include delicately colored pages from a coloring book and forts in the forest. Yet what he reveals is shocking, painful, and—what is far worse—entirely possible.
“…distills the effects of gay conversion therapy in the fictional story of one of its survivors.”
With I AM Norman Blake and Shu have crafted a short that demands you observe. The torn picture of Norman’s missing dog, the pile of stuffed animals, delicately placed in the forest, the grimy outfit of jeans, and a jacket worn by the subject all evoke unspoken details. The subtleties in Blake’s performance, along with the convincing yet artistic work of Shu’s camera, craft a painful portrait of regret and survival.
Could this happen? Yes, it is happening in 100 countries around the world. Could this particular story of survival and horrific humanity occur? Blake and Shu paint a reality in which the only options rejected members of the queer community have are to survive and salvage where they can. It is vital, it is real, and it is a fiction that could happen… does happen.
I AM Norman is a refined piece of work from two talented filmmakers. It has a voice, a message, and a reason to exist. You are not ill. You are not alone.
"…Blake and co-producer and director Darius Shu have one message—this is not okay."