By Darlene Donloe
Music really is a universal language. It speaks to everyone.
Alive Inside is an emotionally charged documentary about music and its affects on dementia patients. The documentary leaves a lasting impact.
Directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett the documentary beautifully and craftily demonstrates how music can actually change and enhance lives. It was spearheaded by social worker Dan Cohen.
Through music some people are able to fight depression while it helps others bring back a sense of self. After research Cohen noted how music had the ability to reawaken forgotten or buried memories and emotions in dementia patients. The film documents the affect music has on people who have otherwise been unresponsive.
In the film Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, visits several nursing homes, talks to residents, learns their musical interests and presents them with the kind of music they’ve had a relationship with. In some cases it’s a three-hanky scene as one by one patients who have been expressionless for years are suddenly talking, singing, and even dancing.
An example is 94-year-old Henry Dreher, whose life consisted of sitting in a chair all day with his head down.
Almost immediately after headphones are placed on his ears, Dreher’s eyes open, his face changes, he speaks and then begins to sing with a renewed joy. It’s a miracle to behold.
Cohen, who has a background in high-tech training and software applications, initially began his journey by putting together a short film featuring Dreher and posting it on the Music & Memory website. The result was 7 million views. A Kickstarter campaign netted Cohen some much needed funds to complete the film. One of Cohen’s goals is to see musical headsets given to every patient in every nursing home in the country. A lofty idea indeed, but Cohen is undeterred. Surprisingly, Cohen faced backlash when he spoke to nursing home execs about introducing the personalized music to their patients. One of the reasons cited was reluctance to changing the standard operating procedure.
Statistics show that more then 600 nursing homes in 45 states are Music & Memory certified, with 19 of those in California.
This past January Alive Inside received the Audience Award at Sundance.
Alive Inside is one of the best documentaries this year. The film is currently open in New York and Los Angeles.
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), Alive Inside gets an E (excellent).
Running time: 74 minutes.