Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reel Indie Film Festival Review - Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory

The first nursing home resident we see on screen is Henry.  He is 94 years old, withdrawn and curled up in a small section his chair.  Dan Cohen a retired social worker turned Music Therapy pioneer puts a set of headphones with an iPod mini attached over Henry's ears causing him to steadily come to life as the music of his personal playlist takes him back to the best events of his younger years. Starting out as a one day project. Alive Inside The Story of Music and Memory takes director Michael Rossato- Bennett around the United States following Dan Cohen as he attempts to bring music to patients with Alzheimer's in retirement homes mainly through his own effort plus his attempts to get funding for the iPods and support of the retirement facilities.

Mesie is the first senior we meet as the prelude interview for the film. She can't remember anything about her past, stumbles to find words her childhood memories a distant memory. After a brief series of questions the headphone go on playing Louis Armstrong. Mesie is transported back to her front porch as a little girl. Friends from the time come flashing back as do the early words of wisdom from her mother and vivid memories of her school friend.

Dr. Bill Thomas who attempted similar alternative therapies with children and animals in nursing homes in the past is a large contributor to the project. He is the subject of many on camera interviews pointing to the fact that Nursing Homes tend to shy away from anything new. That the model moved ion the 1930's from neighbourhood based to the hospital based that continues today. As a result seniors are not viewed as respected retirees but rather patients to be medicated on a regular basis. The cost of pills are no object but a small cost for anything off script has to be approved by too many administrative levels.

The film delves into the science behind the positive effect with the aid of leading neurologist Oliver Sacks. Humans develop a rhythm and a beat from before they are born. Many newborn's crying is in the pattern of the mothers' speech. The portion of the brain linked to music is largely untouched by Dementia therefor the strong psychological like to music and events remain intact as the rest of the brain and the person atrophies.

While the feature paints a very negative picture of the Nursing industry and its Administrative leaders a whole it is quick to point out that the front line health care works invest their time, effort and love into caring for their patients. A statistic is raised that 50% of the people in nursing homes do not have any visitors. Therefore it is the front line staff that interact with and truly care for these patients.

Alive Inside is an informative study on the relationship between music and memory in humans. One telling sequence has Bobby McFerrin playing a human piano in front of the audience Through his jumping back and forth on imaginary keys he gives the audience a few notes and they instinctively can hum out the rest of the passage in unison following his movements. The film brings attention to a form of therapy worth investigating and is an educative piece for those with aging family members and in a position to influence their local nursing homes.

*** Out of 4

Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory | Michael Rossato-Bennett | U.S.A. | 2014 | 78 Minutes.

Tags; Documentary , Music Therapy, Alzheimer's, Dementia, Pharmaceducials, Beauracy, Administration.

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