From the Filmmaker
Four years ago, I met a man named Dan Cohen who was launching what started out as a small program designed to bring personalized music into the lives of residents of nursing homes in New York. As I followed Dan, documenting the results of his work for my film Alive Inside, not only did I observe him changing the lives of a fragile and often marginalized group of people, I found my own life changed as well.
Almost accidentally, I had discovered something that touched me in a transformative way. I had been given a unique opportunity, not only to tell a poignant story that touches the lives of each of us, but also to help to bring comfort to millions who have been forgotten.
Our culture has a difficult time facing the aging process. Instead of cherishing our elders, we too often warehouse them, cutting them off from the energy and connection that make everyday life meaningful. As I watched these people experience music with such intensity, I began to see that the familiar rhythms and vibrations of the music still living deep within them allowed them to reclaim their sense of identity, the essential self that was slipping away.
Music is so much more powerful in our lives than we realize. I believe it is one of our greatest human achievements. From the womb, a mother’s heartbeat and the sound of her voice are every child’s first musical education. That melody is the beginning of the soundtrack of our lives, with a million years of human evolution and collective knowledge embedded within it. In supplying people with familiar music, from jazz to opera to pop, Dan had done nothing less than reconnect their unmoored spirits with the world.
It is extremely gratifying that Alive Inside has been recognized by film-festival juries and critics, and the reactions of audiences, as they witness the miraculous transformations we have recorded, has been a reward beyond my imagination. But by far the most exciting result has been the film’s contribution to the growing acceptance of music as therapy.
Like music—and life itself—this movie was made to be shared with other people. Something magical happens as an audience experiences the moments of joy, discovery and remembrance together. It is my hope that you will see it with your parents, your children, your siblings and your friends, and that it sparks many conversations.
I believe Alive Inside has an important role to play in improving the lives of millions of people. In the film we say, “Let’s do this one small good deed,” and that is truly my ambition. We may not be able to change the world, but through the miracle of music we can bring profound joy where today there is none. And in the process, we will deepen who we are.” by director Michael Rossato-Bennett