An outlier in their programming and tone, the new documentary “I Am Heath Ledger” about the late, great Australian actor, perhaps points to a new and mature direction for the channel. Or perhaps it’s an aberration, but either way, this intimate and soulful documentary directed by Adrian Buitenhuisand Derik Murray, should lend the channel some newfound credibility; it’s that surprisingly good, even as it mostly sticks to a familiar format of talking heads testimonials, excerpts of great performances. And it feels deeply personal despite being made by two strangers. But its defining characteristic is Ledger’s own curious and hungry perspective of the world—the doc features a treasure trove of pre-existing footage shot by Ledger himself that is cut together in an incredibly effective and emotionally stirring fashion.
“I shouldn’t be here. This shouldn’t be happening,” musician Ben Harper intones solemnly at the beginning the doc. This conversation shouldn’t be taking place, he says. Heath Ledger should still be alive, thriving and thrilling the world with his art. Documentaries about the dearly departed and the exceptionally gifted are often devotional even worshipping, and while clearly adoring, “I Am Heath Ledger,” not only strikes the perfect balance of affection and truthful storytelling, but makes an extremely convincing argument for the case that Ledger was a true artist beyond what you already know, who should have been destined for all-time greatness. Passing away all too early at 28, the moving memorial can only compellingly point to what might have been, but still, cements the actor’s status as an icon.