Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory (2014) Poster

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a tremendous, moving experience, not to be missed
blanche-230 July 2014
"Alive Inside" is the work of director/writer Michael Rossato-Bennett and Dan Cohen, who is the founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory. Cohen goes into nursing homes and sets patients up with ipods and earphones, and plays the patient's favorite music. This is sometimes learned from the family, sometimes from the patient, sometimes it's an educated guess.

The transformation in these patients is, I guarantee you, one of the most remarkable things you will ever see. It is pointed out that there is no medicine that can do this for these people, that they are overmedicated, and that the U.S. can save literally billions and billions of dollars by introducing this program into nursing homes. And it keeps elders out of those same nursing homes and with their families.

The music awakens memories in the person, it socializes them in a way they haven't been before, it calms them, it brings a smile to their faces. People who were sitting slumped over in a wheelchair not only begin to sing but dance. Truly remarkable.

The film shows one woman who has been cared by her husband for ten years without medication by playing her music for her.

I have never seen anything like this documentary, and it has really caught on with the public. A youtube video of one patient, Henry, went completely viral; the states of Wisconsin and Utah are adopting the program into all of their nursing homes, and the list of nursing homes incorporating Cohen's program is growing daily.

What Music & Memory needs now are donations, headphones, and ipods. These are always a need, though I suspect once this documentary is released he will have much more support -- but he will also have a lot more interested nursing homes and people.

The idea is to not throw away our elderly, but to involve the younger generation so that they can receive the gifts these wonderful people have to offer.

Alive Inside is opening nationwide but only in some major cities. Hopefully this will be on demand on cable, and the DVD itself is going to become available. I urge you not to miss this incredible documentary. It will be a life-changing experience not only for you but for your loved ones.
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Joyfully inspirational, heart warming (and breaking); one of the year's best films and a must see.
george.schmidt27 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
ALIVE INSIDE (2014) **** Docufilmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett's look at one man's crusade to incorporate music therapy to the aged in nursing homes in America focuses on Dan Cohen, founder of a non-prof organization Music & Memory, details the struggles in finding funding and donors for his life-altering miraculous exercise in tapping into the neglected elderly who are afflicted with Alzheimer's and dementia among others who have lost the capacity to retain identity. The footage of wizened, nearly comatose patients and residents responding to the simple application of a headset with music is astounding to say the least. Joyfully inspirational, heart warming (and breaking) the film's seemingly easy efforts to awaken the human spirit (and for them to remember) is startling just as it is in the fact that it has not been overwhelmingly accepted (but the baby steps are paying off finally). You are simply made of stone if you are not driven to tears while smiling in spite of them. One of the year's best films and a must see.
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An important documentary
How many times does one visit the nursing home? Feed the hungry? Or volunteer in any other way? It's an act of caring and giving that takes a lot to stomach. Many people these days, including myself try not to pay attention to these things because of how uncomfortable it is visually and physically see right in front of us. It's a quiet pity that we all hold and tend to push to the back of our minds. Hoping that all of our other daily tasks can distract us from such awkwardness. In some ways it's almost like today's generation is too embarrassed to acknowledge the issues and don't expect it to happen in our lifetime. When in fact, this is the exact opposite.

Now that's not to say when we get older, we will all develop alzheimer's and be put in nursing homes, but it's important to understand that it's also not the most uncommon of diseases like vitiligo or polio. Alzheimer's affects numerous elderly individuals and once it's diagnosed, there really isn't anything anyone can do from stopping it. However, one man has found a remedy to help slow it down, along with exposing various aspects of today's healthcare system. Dan Cohen (a public social worker) and filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett team up in this stunning documentary about how bringing music to alzheimer's patients can help bring back some, if not most of the life and soul of what used to be the youth of the early to mid 1900s.

There really isn't much to dispute about here. Both the writer/director and social worker duo demonstrate the power of music simply by putting headphones on the older folk. To watch them go from slumped over and quiet or mumbling to bouncing around and crying or laughing is astonishing. The results are phenomenal and it's quite honestly baffling because how come no one had ever thought of doing this before? You didn't even need iPods to figure this out; someone back in the late 1990s could have tried this with Walkmans or portable CD players. It all seems so obvious now and it's weird that no one considered this as a type of therapy. I mean, there are therapy dogs and other types of animals that are used to help jog patients' memories, so why not music? It's better than just feeding them pills and vitamins constantly everyday. Where's the enjoyment in that?

Perhaps the strangest thing of all is that even with all the positive results, the film crew displays continuous rejections from top authority figures in the healthcare system. It's tragic because who would deny such optimistic opportunities? Viewers should not only get a kick out of the end result to these amazing transformations but also how this particular story unfolds. The way this documentary is told, is by looking through the eyes of Dan Cohen when he first started trying this particular study. As time plays out, the viewer will see the struggles he had to face, the turndowns and even the surprises. An example of this would be how this particular film came to light. All it needed was to be released onto the internet and it got people motivated. I didn't even know about this until a friend of mine who plays in a group shared the link.

Another thing to think about are the possible futures that lie ahead for the currently old and the one's who will become old. Michael Rossato- Bennett brings into play how the number of elderly people have increased over time and if it continues at the same rate, there will be less supplies available to take care of them. It's a grim outlook if things aren't looked at carefully. As for the actual quality of filmmaking, it looks very good. Itaal Shur's musical composition perfectly blends in raw emotion and tenderness for each scene. Shachar Langlev's cinematography shows many POV shots giving viewers an idea of how bland and lifeless a nursing home looks like no matter how friendly the people who work there are.

This is perhaps the only drawback to this involving movie. It is a tad one-sided (although rightfully so for everything explained prior). But there are some things that aren't explored. For one, has there ever been a patient that was not willing to listen to music? Or has there ever been a patient willing to listen but it did not have the positive effect it had on so many others? These special scenarios would've been interesting to see as well. What would Dan Cohen's next step be to counter such a roadblock? These kinds of questions are important. Perhaps with a little more running time, the crew could have added that to this production. It is a very intellectual film that any viewer should watch because at some point, everyone gets old and just like Dennis Haysbert would ask from Allstate - "Are you in good hands"?

Aside from being a bit one-sided, this documentary explores the alternate avenue of fighting alzheimer's with the power of music. The provided information, music, patients and emotion are all authentic and it is exactly what makes this so uplifting to see.
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Discover the real power of music!
santiagocosme10 January 2015
We need music. That's the message you are going to get from this documentary. And very few are as eye opening as "Alive inside" which takes us into the world of nursing homes in the US. It's easy to forget that there are millions of people living alone with no relatives to pay them a visit. We go on with our daily lives and spend more time talking to strangers on social medias than actually doing something for real people who are there and need us. The scary thing, it's that it might very likely be the way we end up ourselves: sat on a chair in a nursing home while contemplating yet again a plain wall for hours.

What Dan (the protagonist of this documentary) sets to do is to show the power of alternative therapies for people with Dementia, or simply people who have forgotten all about their lives. And his soothing therapy couldn't be simpler: Music! That's right! nothing else. We see the residents of these nursing homes with broken spirits, unable to articulate a sentence, incapable of remember any details from the past. Surprisingly, the moment they are exposed to music, memories come back to them. A spark lightens up in their eyes, they even dance, and start talking more than they ever did. Music makes them cry, laugh, jump. As one of them says: "It makes me feel like I have a girl and I can hug her".

How can music be so powerful? some bits are explained in the documentary, so I hope you will find the time to watch it. While it might not be the best edited piece of film making around, for the sake of its content, you should definitely give it go!
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Alive Inside = sadness in the Medical American system
annuskavdpol20 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this movie last night. The movie had a few very interesting components. One was the Steve Jobs shuffler device. This very tiny music recording and output device is like the modern day walkman. One can download music onto this device and then at the same time store it in a very easy way. It can store many songs on it. The songs are the thread that pulls the Dementia patient into a memory field and floods of emotion. This idea of using the Apple shuffler music device as a means of re-connecting Dementia patients to their past is a good idea. However - this movie did not show the pros and the cons to the shuffler device. For example, the cord of the headphones could be seen as a means to commit suicide - or choking. And are there not hundreds of methods to improve ones quality of life? Artwork, nature, animals, story-telling, sightseeing, watching movies, listening to the birds outside, fresh air, theatre productions, the list is endless. How can one make changes in the medical system in the United States of America - this is the real question - and the answer is impossibly hard. What would it take to improve the quality of life of sick patients? Would it take a mind-set shift - not only within the Medical America System - but all American Models. If the Pursuit of Happiness was turned upside down - to entail - "it is not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" (JFK) would this create a more coherent balance of humanity - where senior citizens with Dementia - would receive respect versus being written off as sick and demented.
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Music effectively combats the ravages of Alzheimer's and dementia
steven-leibson22 June 2014
What if there were a truly inexpensive way to materially improve the lives of Alzheimer's sufferers and those who have other forms of dementia? If you see "Alive Inside," you will discover that there is such a thing. All it takes is an Apple iPod and the right music--music from the person's past. The music makes a connection with portions of the brain least ravaged by neurological disorders and it connects with the person that's still alive inside. Really alive.

This film shows you the proof, over and over again. The demonstration of the power of music from a person's past being able to bring the person into the present seems irrefutable. It is miraculous but you won't believe unless you see the film.

To think that a $40 music player and headphones can do what drugs cannot is mindblowing. The music doesn't necessarily extend a person's life the way drugs do, but it does awaken the person. Patient after patient shown in this movie awakens as the camera watches. The effects and the repeatability are positively stunning.

This film is about to go into limited distribution. It will be showing in San Jose at the Camera 7 theater starting August 8. Please find a way to see this film. It will change lives.

We saw this movie as part of the San Jose Camera Cinema Club and it was one of the most moving films we've seen through this organization.
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Alive Inside Changes Lives
pampowell521 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
ALIVE INSIDE: A STORY OF MUSIC AND MEMORY is a scientifically emotional film about our basic abilities as humans:  communication and connections.  Over a three year period, filmmaker Michael Rosatto-Bennett followed Dan Cohen as he visited various nursing facilities.  What takes place on the screen seems almost impossible.  It is truly magical.  Patients with little connection to people and their environment, some with no recognition of their own adult children, put a set of headphones on, plug into an iPod programmed with songs of their generation and PRESTO! they come to life.  They talk about what they are listening to; they reminisce about the time period; and they talk about their feelings. But most importantly, they are connected to people.  With music, they come back to the world around them and are living again.

I know this sounds like magic, but neurology actually supports this observation.  With the disease of dementia, the hippocampus or memory area of our brains, is affected.  It looks a bit like a bunch of spider webs throwing off the pathways in our brain, making it impossible for proper connections to take place. But music memory isn't stored here.  Music reaches all the different areas of our brain and stimulates synapses or fireworks of communication so that we "wake up!"  Music touches us all on so many different levels, and Dan Cohen with his endeavors has helped to bring life back into these older folks who had given up and recoiled within themselves.

We baby-boomers will be inhabiting this earth, growing exponentially over the next 2 decades.  Don't we want to help our own parents age more gracefully as well as set the precedent for our own care in the coming years?  See this film and empower yourself.
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Inspires hope
whitfieldgeoff15 December 2019
I saw the trailer for the film on YouTube. As I'm just beginning a new career in aged care, I've been inspired to use music with residents - recorded music, singing to them*, and involving them in community singalongs. While my experience has been brief so far, I have seen in some residents the transformation which music gives (though nowhere near as dramatic as Henry in the clip).

*I'm not much of a singer, but that doesn't make a difference if I can find the right songs.

Inspired by the clip, I bought the DVD.

It was one of the most positive films I've seen for a long time. It brought tears to the eyes seeing some of the transformation brought about by music. It was wonderful, seeing a way that some joy can be brought back to some people.

I know that a film like that will only show the most positive stories, and I've seen first hand that many more people will not have the reactions shown.

But there has been enough of a transformation in some of the stories shown to continue to inspire me to look for opportunities to give just a little bit of joy to some people.

Thank you so much to the filmmakers and storymakers for showing the possibilities.
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music is the greatest creation of human.
lahiriritwik5228 November 2014
I am deeply moved by this documentary. It is really very fascinating to watch how the Alzheimer patients who don't even remember their names responded to music, particularly the music they loved in their early days.The scientific reasons behind this is also described properly. Aging is an inevitable phenomenon of life. It is us who should decide how we take care of aged population. In India the way is far more different than USA. Here usually old people, who are suffering from dementia are not sent to a nursing home. Home care is given and they remain in the family. But after watching this documentary I have realized the picture is quite different in America.Parting a old human from his/her familiar world is gonna worsen their disease(but there may be some obligatory factors in the family I am overlooking those).If music therapy seems to help them then it should be started on a large scale. Dan Cohen is doing a great job by helping these people(not patient) and government should help him to achieve his goal. A must watch.
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Alive Everywhere
morpheopunkrocker9 June 2016
Music is powerful and the sounds are unpredictable. "Alive Inside" takes us inside some American nursing homes and it shows some of this hidden power and the healing effect of music on patients which suffer different levels of dementia and Alzheimer's. We see through their eyes, how they were kinda dead and, suddenly, smiles and that spark on the eyes. With music, they can live again.

The movie is about "Music & Memory", Dan Cohen's nonprofit organization. He brings iPod's and earphones for some patients, and plays their favorite music. The results on screen are fabulous. We know our music carries memories and it defines part of our personality. These patients combat memory loss, by dementia or Alzheimer's, and just by playing the musics, we can see they come up with things they thought were lost. We're exposed to some awakening and delightful moments, with an uplifting atmosphere of hope and joy passed to us, with some sensitive and heart touching scenes. There's too much feeling on it!

I believe one of the best points on the documentary is Rossato- Bennett's work on the cinematography. He followed Dan to check and film his job. What he didn't knew until the first days, is that he was going to spent a couple of years with him, and there are some astonishing pictures on the screen. His works on close ups and the pace of the doc are fantastic. But, it's all about the music, and the key point is the soundtrack, made by the collection of some patients music. We travel in time on gospel music, some blues and jazz, classical music. The soundtrack is brilliant. It couldn't be different.

Since everything isn't great, there are some important preoccupations with the future shown. The planet is getting older, and we're not prepared to it. There's no interest today on taking care of the elders. Geriatricians are fading and in some years from today, we will see an old population, without the needed assistance. People today don't even seem to care with this. Dan got huge negative feed backs when he was trying to get some donations improve and spread his organization on the country. Here, we see with our eyes, how music affects on people, how it enhances the life of the elders, but we don't even have huge research's on this field. We simply don't care with elderly people.

Music is everything. Music is identity and memories. Musics are sad and happy, it hurts, heals. It works on us in deep levels and so many ways we can't even imagine. We all have our musics and our memories, and we're the ones who should protect it. When you forget, you don't leave a memory. You leave yourself, aside on the roads of life, and it's okay. Our brain can't hold on too much information, we need to leave some things on the way, but remember: if you want it back somehow, just play your music. Musics are feelings, and to feel is to be alive.
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thiago_nunes2 June 2016
OK, medicine can do a lot of things to make us fell better, heal a plenty of ours diseases and stuff but, can the medicine touch our soul? Nope. This documentary show us that music is universal and everyone needs music. Yes, we need it. Music touch our soul and can we fell better, the right music can make you relax more than a vicodin, for sure. This film show us that we are so used to the consume of drugs that we don't really need, and we don't care about it. Because somebody says that we need that and that is it. The elderly that are abandoned by their children in that facilities were removed from the world they know, and put on a sad and depressing reality, and just by the use of music they can feel alive again, can remember things again, feel human again. Finally, this film show us that small things like this can change a life, they make a difference in someone's life. So, be there for your parents, they won't be there for you forever.
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Following the 2014's films on degenerative diseases came this impressive documentary.
bruno_zao19 April 2015
"Alive Inside", written and directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett. Following the 2014's films on degenerative diseases came this impressive documentary. Unlike medical drugs, the power that the sounds have in our brains and especially when produced with proportion, line, rhythm and all those assumptions of geometry that turn into development and therapy. Almost nothing is known about the real causes but the effects of music are more than obvious, hence all poetic speeches that are made happily around since we are still at the stage of believing and not of knowing. A revolution is about to happen, any day, a revelation. It is touching and I was unable to give less than 10 in 10.
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A profound film about using music to confront aging
sldaley2 August 2015
The discovery that music, when carefully selected for and played to individual dementia patents, can bring them out of their depressed stupor, and/or calm them down when agitated -- is simply profound.

The documentary is very professional and does a fine job of illuminating this new and major movement throughout the "rest homes" of the world -- one which even eliminates the need for a rest home in some cases.

If you were afraid to see yet another "depressing account" of the state of our elderly -- don't be! This is anything but depressing (for the most part) as it demonstrates what is possibly the greatest (and mostly hidden) wealth within each of our minds: music.

Seems that a sense of and remembrance of music is one of the last things to go in our brains when we age. Not only is the music shown to be enjoyable by elderly, but, as shown succinctly in this film, the right music can unlock many other memories, leading to an obvious joy of heart.

Watch it and be truly amazed, even crying with joy.
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alive, inside, Alzheimer, music, USA, review, dementia, Oliver, sacks
radamiscastor-801069 June 2016
Dementia affects around 46,8 millions of people around the world and Alzheimer Disease is the main cause of it. This devastating pathology takes away from you the most important treasure: your memories. You unlearn how to eat, how to dress, how to talk and even how to live. You become dependent. But if instead just medicines, music had an important healing power? In "Alive Inside", a Michael Bennett documentary, we saw the brilliant idea of Dan Cohen, a social worker, be successfully applied - listening music can renew dignity of those who have forgotten their own value. Released in 2014, this delightful film shows the reaction of Alzheimer's heroes and other dementias to listening to personalized music - they awake from a deep sleep and become alive again. It's joyful to see them dancing, singing and talk about it.

Finally, we follow his fight in order that the highest number of nursing homes in the United States can adopt your therapy. Touching and inspiring, this movie teach us the sense of humanity, showing that difference can and should be done.
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A Film Worth Watching
woodstock271-15 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film at the Cleveland International Film Festival in March of 2014 & was inspired to start the Rock Against Dementia Movement immediately after the screening.In the years since then it has developed into a Global Movement with World Rock Against Dementia Days being held every March. This year there were 76 Events in 13 Countries across 3 Continents We ALL are connected to Music/Rhythm from Cradle to Grave, in fact the first sounds we hear are our Mother's heartbeat & voice. This film shows how that connection can be a blessing for those living with Dementia re- connecting them with forgotten moments & memories. Alive Inside shows many examples of how that works to the benefit of Dan Cohen and Music and Memory Alive Inside Director Michael Rossatto Bennett addresses many other peripheral issues regarding aging , how we treat our elders and the need for human connection and empathy. Here's the Spoiler Sadly Dan Cohen, the perceived Hero of the film isn't a hero at all. See details of his lawsuit here: filmmaker-save-alive-inside
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Life changing documentary
Douglasbarnhart26 January 2014
I had the privilege to see this at the Sundance Film Festival. It was the most memorable film experience of my life.

It will change the way you view the elderly and those with dementia. In shows that in the midst of what seems to be the overwhelming burden of the memory loss of dementia, there is still the hidden spark of who the person was and is. This spark is revealed as these elders hear the music of their lives. It is truly amazing to see people re-enlivened and joyful.

As a part of the Sundance experience we were able to have a question and answer with the director. It was evident that this film was made because he discovered something amazing and had to share it. This has the potential to change the lives of millions of elders. Truly the best of what indie films are about!
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