Every week, Wondering Sound contributor Ami Armstrong recommends a music film available to stream.
Alive Inside begins with a 90-year-old woman apologizing for not being able to answer any of the interviewer’s questions about her life. “I’ve forgotten so much,” she says. Someone behind the camera puts headphones over her ears and begins to play “When the Saints Go Marching In” on an iPod.
Suddenly, as if struck by magic, she begins to recall where she first heard the song, where she went to school, her first job and stories about her children. The contrast is stunning, and it appears again and again with all of the patients who appear throughout the documentary. Seemingly shut down, the infirmed spring to life once the music starts.
Dan Cohen, who began using music to interact with the patients at a nursing home where he was a volunteer, enlisted director Michael Rossato-Bennet to the project to tell precisely this story — the ways that music can be used, almost supernaturally, to aid recovery. More than six years later, the two have made it their mission to get music devices and headphones to as many of the 5 million people suffering from dementia as possible.
The film is equal parts heart-wrenching and inspirational as it questions the standard of care for the aging and infirmed, and illustrates unquestionably the value of music both as therapy as well as a pathway to memory. (To assist with the project, visit Music & Memory.)
Stream Alive Inside on Netflix, and watch the trailer below.