Alive Inside

Synopsis: The documentary follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, as he fights against a broken health-care system to demonstrate music's ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. Rossato-Bennett visits family members who have witnessed the miraculous effects of personalized music on their loved ones, and offers illuminating interviews with experts including renowned neurologist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks (Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain) and musician Bobby McFerrin ("Don't Worry, Be Happy").
Genre: Documentary, News
Production: BOND/360
  11 wins & 6 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
78 min

How old are you?

How old am I?


I'm 90 years old.

What was life like when

You were a little girl?

Oh, god.

I've forgotten so much.

I can't...

I've forgotten so much.

I'm very sorry.

No, it's okay.

What have you forgotten?

I've forgotten what I used to

Do after I became a young lady.

I've forgotten so much.

I can't remember.

I've been here...

I've been here... I've been

Here 90 years.

And if I could remember,

I would tell you, but I don't.

I can't remember.

I want

To try an experiment.


I want you to try and let the

Music take you back

Into your memories.

To travel back into time...

and then we'll stop,

And you can tell me

Where it took you.

You ready?


O when the saints

Go marching in

when the saints

Go marching in

That's Louis Armstrong.

Yes, I want to be

In that number

when the saints...


now when the saints

go marching by

He's singing "when the saints

Go marching by," and it

Takes me back

To my school days.

I would like

To hit the number

Mama told us not to go listen

To him, and

We would sneak off at night,

And bring back pictures

Of the dancers...

and I worked in Kingstown for

Nine years in the "E" building

In Kingstown...

my birthday November 20th...

that was in the wartime...

I was working in ft. Jackson...

and my son,

On February the 4th, was 69.

I didn't know I could talk so


This is Dan Cohen.

Six years ago, he volunteered

At a nursing home, and

What he experienced there

Changed his life.

Dan asked me to film him

For one day.

Adjusting the camera.

Go get the...

he wanted to show

People what he was seeing...

what was happening when he gave

Elders with dementia

Music that they had loved.

Music connects people

With who they have been, who

They are, and their lives.

'Cause what happens when

You get old is all the things

You're familiar with, and your

Identity are all just being

Peeled away...

what unfolded that

First day moved me so much,

I ended up following

Dan for three years.

Did you work with

Elderly people before?

Well, I'm

A social worker, and so I have

Worked with elderly people

When I was...

Actually for my internship, but

It really wasn't...

Most of my life was

Spent in the computer industry.

And this is sort of, for me,

Putting two things

I love together.

We really want to learn what

Music someone's going to really

Recognize and enjoy.

One of the residents

Is a resident who likes

Gospel music.

Church was all his life, and

I think that

We could start with him.

Henry, speak to me!

I want to hear your voice.

Can you talk to me?

Let me hear you.

Tell me your full name.

Henry has

Dementia and he needs

Total assistance with all his

Activities of daily living.

Hi, papa.

Hi, papa.


How you doing?

I'm all right, I'm fine.

Who am I?


Who am I?

I'm your daughter.



Which one?

Wait a minute...

I don't know...

I got so many, I don't know.

God knows.

You've got so many?

Maybe grand-Daughters...

well, that's what I mean...

I don't know.

Okay, it's Cherie.

How long has he been in

The nursing home?

Approximately 10 years.

It affects me greatly, because

He was always, you know,

Fun-Loving, singing, you know?

On every occasion, he would come

Out with a song.

I remember as a child he used to

Walk us down the street,

Me and my brother, and he'd

Stop and do

"Singin' in the rain."

He would have us jumping and

Swinging around poles.

He was good, he was always

Into music, you know?

He always loved singing,


You want your music


Let's try your music, okay?

And then you tell me if it's too

Loud or not, okay?

Music is inseparable

From emotion.

So it's not just

A physiological stimulus.

If it works at all, it

Will call the whole person...

The many different parts of

Their brain, and the memories

And emotions which go with it.

He is my lord

I'm supposed to sing with


You can if you like.

I'm so in love

With you...



When I first met him, he was

Very isolated, and he

Used to always sit on the unit

With his head like this...

he didn't really talk

To much people, and then when

I introduced the music to him,

This is his reaction ever since.


I'm so in love with you


Henry waking up did

Something to all of us...

Everyone in the room felt it.

So in love with my god

so in love with you, god

I'm so in love with you, god


wherever it be

The philosopher Kant once

Called music

"The quickening art,"

And Henry is being quickened,

He is being brought to life.


I'm going to take the music

For one second, okay, just to

Ask you a few

Questions, okay?

How awake was he?

I'm gonna give it

Back to you.

Was he still lost

In his dementia?

Or had the music

In some way changed that?



Do you like the iPod?

Do you like the music you're



Tell me about your music.

I don't... I don't...

I don't have one, I mean.

Do you like music?

Yeah, I'm

Crazy about music.

Used to play beautiful music,

Beautiful sounds.

Did you play music when you

Were... Did you like music

When you were young?

Yes. Yes.

I went to big dances and things.

What was your favorite music

When you were young?

Well, I guess...

well, cab Calloway was

My number one band guy I liked.



What was your favorite song?


I'll be home

For Christmas

you can plan

On me

with plenty of snow


Presents wrapped 'round

The tree


Christmas eve will tell me

Where the love light beams



What was the favorite part of

Your life?

What was your favorite part

Of your life?

My life?

Well, part of my life

Was riding a bicycle,

Grocery boy...

what did you like about

Riding a bicycle?

That's where I made my money.

So, in some sense,

Henry has re-Acquired his

Identity for a while through the

Power of music.

What does music

Do to you?

It gives me the feeling of

Love, romance.

Figure right now, the world

Needs to come into music,


You got beautiful music here,

Beautiful, oh, lovely.

And I feel a band of love,

Of dreams.

The lord came to me, made me


I'm a holy man, so he gave

Me these sounds.

Let's say I meet you...

let me see...

Rosalie, won't you love me

Rosalie wont you be sweet

And kind

What do you

Think happened with Henry?

I mean, what did we just see

Happening with Henry?

We connected with Henry.

We connected with Henry's self.

You know, when you're in

A nursing home or when you

Have Alzheimer's disease, you're

Really struggling with your own

Thoughts and confusion...

Dan was excited.

I was excited.

What if all these people we'd

Seen could be awakened like


All a sudden,

Everything falls into

Place and you're right

There with the music, you

Understand it.

It's pleasurable.

You're not thinking about

Anything else, you're not


Oh, how lovely!

This is no small problem.

There are five million people

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