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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » I Am Santa Claus (Blu-ray)
I Am Santa Claus (Blu-ray)
Other // Unrated // November 11, 2014 // Region A
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted November 29, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

In I Am Santa Claus, one of the many Santas attending the annual Santa Claus convention states that Santas come in all sizes and backgrounds. "There are Jewish Santas", he says, "Atheist Santas, even Muslim Santas." Watching I Am Santa Claus, we are once again reminded that Santa is more of a figure that universally brings warmth and hope into children's lives, apart from any religious connotations.

Even as a kid growing up in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, I remember dressing up as Santa in grade school, handing out small presents to the adults and children who used to come to our annual New Year's party. Yes, every Christmas-related icon, like the Christmas tree and Santa were switched to New Year's since we didn't celebrate Christmas but we got to live the tradition regardless.

I Am Santa Claus follows a group of Santas dedicated to bringing joy to children's lives during Christmas season. Some of them pick up their annual gigs as mall Santas, some even make house calls and show up in the middle of the night, pretending to "covertly" drop presents before they're "caught" by the children living there.

First and foremost, this is a very pro-Santa documentary (Who'd want to take the anti-Santa side anyway?), so even though it presents the many real life hardships of the people who give a lot out of their lives to make kids happy, it doesn't really delve into the possible psychological issues that might lie underneath while being so dedicated to living a fantasy lifestyle.

The doc looks at these figures with rose-colored glasses, showing them as truly dedicated to their craft. I'm sure there are many Santas across the world who don't give a crap about making kids happy and look at their holiday gig as just another paycheck, but Tommy Avallone's film is not interested in them. Besides, if you really want to see Santa being a jerk, you can always watch the great Bad Santa.

Avallone's project is honest about the many different lifestyles of the Santas and correctly separates their personal lives from their Santa personas. One of the Santas is gay as well as a member of the bear community, and says that even though most of the townsfolk know about his orientation, it never comes up while he becomes Santa during Christmas. He lives in Texas, mind you. I guess there is some hope for humanity after all.

There is an amusing sequence showing the minor controversy that arises from selecting a swinger as the president of the Santas association. The swinger Santa even takes the film crew on a tour around the sex club where he watches people have sex in front of him, and sometimes even joins in. The controversy is quickly squashed as a Santa who's trying to move out of his daughter's house after having to live with her following a foreclosure, states that a man's personal life is his business. During the Santa convention, the only thing that matters is whether or not he's a good leader for the other Santas.

And as if I needed another reason to love WWE wrestler Mick Foley after watching For All Mankind, which lays out Foley's many philanthropic contributions to his community, yet Foley endears us once again by deciding to use his fame for good and become a Santa for Christmas.

Instead of cruising on his fame and just showing up on Christmas eve, he actually takes the time to do the research, gets some tips from other Santas about how to deal with unruly children and even has to make the crucial decision of whether or not to wear a wig, or put himself through the painful hair bleaching process. The bleaching pays off, since curious kids keep pulling hair to see if Santa's beard is real.

Avallone makes all the right decisions during the editing process as he decides on a linear approach. By not seeing a single frame of footage of the Santas actually interacting with kids until Christmas time, we get to know them as individuals with real life problems, only to bask in their joy as those problems momentarily disappear.

The Blu-Ray:

Video:

I Am Santa Claus sports the predictable digital photography of recent documentaries, overtly clean and lacking in contrast. However, this visual approach usually works with docs where the fly-on-the-wall examination of the subjects is at the forefront. The 1080p transfer is devoid of any video noise and looks as clean and crisp as possible.

Audio:

The DTS-HD 5.1 track is also typical for a documentary, as it sticks to the center channel for the interviews, which represents most of the running time. Occasionally we get some subwoofer presence when the awkwardly placed Santa-themed rap songs show up.

Extras:

Santa vs. Santa: More than a deleted scene, this is a 23-minute short documentary about the formation of different Santa organizations and the rivalry between them. It's worth checking out.

Audio Commentary: This commentary is basically an energetic conversation about the film between director Tommy Avallone and subject/producer Mick Foley. It's interesting to find out that Foley had a lot of input into the film's production more than just being a producer in name only. A lot of interesting information is presented here for fans of the doc.

Final Thoughts:

I Am Santa Claus is a heartwarming doc about people whose only goal is to make children happy for a couple of weeks. It's not a revolutionary documentary by any means, but one for the audience to check out when they're losing hope in people's ability to do real good in this world.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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