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An Alzheimer's patient is given headphones to listen to music, in a scene from the documentary "Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory." Courtesy Sundance Institute
Sundance Q-and-A: After ‘Alive Inside’ screening, audience eager to help

If someone had started passing a hat around after Saturday’s Sundance Film Festival screening of "Alive Inside" at the Library Center Theatre, they likely would have collected a good amount of money.

The packed audience gave director Michael Rossato-Bennett a standing ovation after seeing his documentary, which chronicles the work of Dan Cohen, a social worker who aims to get iPods in the hands of Alzheimer’s patients in America’s nursing homes.

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The movie shows how patients who have been unreachable and uncommunicative light up when they hear music from their youth.

"This has been the best week of my life," Rossato-Bennett told the audience, "and this moment has been the best moment of the whole week."

Audience members were eager to speak out after the film, either to comment on how the movie touched them or to ask how they could help Cohen’s campaign.

They also wanted to know how soon they could show the movie to people in their communities. Rossato-Bennett had good news there: One of the film’s executive producers, Regina Scully, and her Artemis Rising Foundation is aiming to take the film to communities, universities and nursing homes after the film’s theatrical release (still pending) is sorted out.

But, Rossato-Bennett said, Cohen’s program, Music & Memory, is already proceeding to the next step. A U.S. government pilot program is starting, and the state of Wisconsin has committed to put music in every nursing home in the Badger State.

And, he said, his brother’s company EyeBall, which did the computer animation in the film, is working to develop an app that will allow anyone to find the music of grandparents’ generation and create a personalized playlist.

Rossato-Bennett said he has seen similar responses at other screenings. When he showed a rough-cut of the film to the Toronto Alzheimer’s Association, someone stood up and promised a $250,000 donation on the spot.

One potential donor that hasn’t budget yet, Rossato-Bennett said, is Apple. The computer company has a strict no-philanthropy policy, he said, though that may be changing now that Tim Cook is CEO.

Rossato-Bennett wondered what would keep Apple from supporting a movie that mentions one of the company’s products, the iPod, dozens of times. "This is the only documentary that could make Apple millions and millions of dollars," he joked.

-- Sean P. Means

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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