Alive Inside

  • Michael Rossato-Bennett
  • United States
  • 2014
  • 78 min
  • Dutch Premiere
  • Best of Fests
Our aging population means that the number of people with memory issues in the Western world is rapidly increasing. In the United States alone, millions of elderly people now face dementia. Often, their loved ones are forced to look on, powerless, as the degenerative process erodes their identity and dignity. But it would seem that music from these patients' pasts is able to recover treasures buried in their memories and bring these to the surface. In Alive Inside, winner of the U.S. Documentary Audience Award at Sundance, filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett spends three years in the company of social worker Dan Cohen, who shows him a number of touching examples of this happening. For some patients, a simple melody like Schubert's "Ave Maria" or Louis Armstrong's "When the Saints Go Marching In" is enough to revive emotions and memories feared long gone. For these elderly people, many of whom are left by a youth-obsessed society to fade away in nursing homes, this therapy brings about a spectacular improvement in their quality of life. The impressive results of Cohen's experiments are discussed in interviews with experts, including neurologist Oliver Sacks and musician Bobby McFerrin. They explain how music is able to “break in” through a back door to the brain and rouse a sleeping memory.


  • 78 min
  • color / black and white
  • DCP
  • Spoken languages: English
Michael Rossato-Bennett
Michael Rossato-Bennett for Ximotion Media, Alexandra McDougald for Ximotion Media, Regina K. Scully for Ximotion Media
Executive producer
Al Perlmutter for The Independent Production Fund
The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation
Shachar Langlev

IDFA history

Dutch Premiere
Best of Fests

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IDFA history

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