Alzheimer's documentary 'Alive Inside' pushes for music therapy

Fri Aug 1, 2014 7:41am EDT
 
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Rossato-Bennett initially thought it was the worst job he had ever taken.

The filmmaker was flabbergasted when he entered a nursing home on a commission to film a few clips for a website.

"I walked into these hallways with hundreds of residents in wheelchairs just sitting on the side of the hallway, and I had felt like I'd entered into Dante's 'Inferno,'" he said.

That visit, though, eventually sparked "Alive Inside," an award-winning independent documentary on musical therapy for those suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other neurological ailments.

When Rossato-Bennett started filming three years ago he met Henry. The 94-year-old man was crumpled in his wheelchair with his head down, eyes closed and hands clasped. He had been in a nursing home for a decade and couldn't recognize his daughter.

But when a nurse put headphones over Henry's ears and played his favorite music, he began to shuffle his feet, move his arms and sing.

"It was like a resurrection of life in a person," Rossato-Bennett, 53, said. "Then when we took the headphones off the guy, and we started talking to him, the being revealed itself. He had this incredible voice and he spoke poetry, like greater poetry than I'm capable of."

Henry's story, which went viral a few years ago when the video clip was released online, is a common occurrence in the film that has begun its rollout into U.S. theaters this month after winning the audience award for top U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in January.   Continued...

 
Director Michael Rossato-Bennett poses for a portrait while promoting the documentary "Alive Inside" in Los Angeles, California July 29, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni