Friday, June 2, 2017 - Stephen Dest’s new documentary I Am Shakespeare: The Henry Green Story is a reminder that the full history and power of cinema, a 120-year-old art form uniquely equipped to inspire empathy among strangers, can be distilled into two basic camera shots: the frontal close-up and the three-quarter profile. One angle to show us who we’re looking at, the other to show us who we are.
Dest’s movie tells the story of Henry Green, a young man from Newhallville whose life nearly tears him asunder. On the one hand, Green was a talented acting student at Co-Op High School, a confident and introspective young artist with a big smile and a penchant for Shakespeare. On the other hand, he was an angry and depressed young man who grew up with no money in a violent neighborhood that sits adjacent to one of the wealthiest universities in the world.
The vast majority of the movie sits with Green as he narrates his life story to the camera, facing the viewer eye-to-eye as his words conjure movement from the stillness around him. He tells us how his artistic talent and ambitions led him to the role of Tybalt in a summer production of Romeo and Juliet. His poverty, pride, and aggression found him with three bullets to the stomach after a street confrontation a few blocks from his home.