Alive Inside documentary

Projector Media

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Audiences first encounter Henry hunched over in his wheelchair, head down, hands clasped firmly together, unresponsive to the world around him.

As soon as a pair of headphones are placed on his head, the 94-year-old dementia patient opens his eyes, sits up straight and begins swaying and humming along with the music. Henry speaks animatedly about his favorite band leader, Cab Calloway, and even begins to emulate the jazz artist’s style of scat singing — at one point launching into a rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

The dramatic transformation, which takes place against the bleak institutional setting of the nursing home where Henry has spent the last decade of his life, is a powerful set piece for the documentary film “Alive Inside,” which opens this weekend in New York.

“Alive Inside” follows social worker Dan Cohen, whose nonprofit Music & Memory organization works to bring iPods loaded with personalized playlists to elderly Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. So far, Cohen’s program has expanded from three nursing homes to 489 in 42 states — with the help of private donations spurred by the film.

Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett said he was hired to create a video for Cohen’s website. The scope of the project changed as he witnessed Henry’s transformation when the music of his youth was returned to him.

“I had goosebumps over my whole body when he was waking up. I had tears in my eyes,” said Rossato-Bennett. “They say every artist only tells one story over and over again. If I had to tell my story, it’s the finding of life where you think there is none.”

“Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory” is winning acclaim on the festival circuit, collecting the prestigious audience award for documentary film at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and best documentary at the Milan International Film Festival.

Apple is lending the film a promotional nudge, as it opens to limited release in theaters throughout the U.S.

The documentary uses Henry’s story, and those of other patients, to illustrate music’s power to reach parts of the brain that remain intact, even late in the onset of Alzheimer’s, and evoke memories.

“Music therapists know all this. They practice it,” Cohen said. “But there are very few music therapists in the world of the elderly. It’s knowledge that was siloed.”

Cohen, who has spent a career working in technology, viewed the problem as one of technical limitations, and he set out to solve it, one iPod and custom playlist at a time. His goal is an ambitious one: To bring personalized music to 16,000 long-term care facilities in the U.S.

“It’s not a cure for Alzheimer’s, but it does work most of the time,” Cohen said. “And there is no downside. The worst case scenario — you don’t get a benefit. Sometimes, it’s a dramatic change in someone’s life.”

Here’s the trailer for the film:



3 comments
suzanne@theWeavingWell
suzanne@theWeavingWell

Music, the international language, has always been critical in my spiritual care approach. It seems to abolish the boundaries both in mind....and cultures to unite humanity. Thank you so much for the documentary and sharing this worldwide as a means to reinforce this important tool for quality care...and love. 

KH
KH

I watched this movie in a private showing months ago. It is amazing on many levels. Dan Cohen is a true inspiration. Following the movie, film maker Michael Rossato-Bennett joined us on Skype.  I live in a highly engaged city and all in attendance wanted to take support to the level. This could be scaled very quickly with Apple's donation of money, product and support. Dan tried to get help from Apple....he was turned away because Apple does not have a policy for Philanthropic giving. Thus for this blog to claim "Apple is lending the film a promotional nudge, as it opens to limited release in theaters throughout the U.S." is both vague and short sighted ... Apple gets lots of recognition in the film and should and could be doing much more than giving a nudge..... Lean in and get in the game!!! You can change lives by donating product used or new... Please don't delete this posting because it does not swoon about Apple, but rather see it as an opportunity to make change!!   ( Making a difference is simple: following the movie we collected used music "devices" so they could be loaded with music to make a difference in seniors lives.  Alive Inside is a brilliant representation of the value of music throughout our lives....Apple, I look forward to seeing how you are making an impact on this important subject.....(I am confident you can do more than a nudge)

K

bobsulli
bobsulli

Can't wait to see this film! I observed something similar with my own grandma. In her early 80s, she came out of a hospitalization with severe tinnitus and her brain associated the continual stream of noise with the songs of her youth over the last dozen years of her life. 

Trackbacks

  1. […] Re/code writes about “Alive Inside,” a documentary that chronicles the experiences of Alzheimer’s patients who have been revitalized through music. The film follows social worker Dan Cohen, whose nonprofit works to bring iPods loaded with personalized playlists to elderly Alzheimer’s and dementia patients across the U.S. Re/code describes a scene from the movie where a 94-year-old dementia patient comes alive with joy as soon as he hears a song from his youth. “I had goosebumps over my whole body when he was waking up. I had tears in my eyes,” said filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett. “They say every artist only tells one story over and over again. If I had to tell my story, it’s the finding of life where you think there is none.” Apple Hot News […]

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