'Off the Cuff' Podcast: Award-Winning 'Alive Inside' Movie Proves The Impossible, Saves Lives With a Song

Alive Inside Sundance Film Still - H 2014

Alive Inside Sundance Film Still - H 2014

Michael Rossato-Bennett and Dan Cohen tell #pretapodcasts about their Sundance smash documentary, "the only good news film ever made about Alzheimer's."

For anyone who has ever helplessly watched a loved one fade away in the confines of a nursing home, Alive Inside is much more than your garden variety tear-jerk documentary – it just might be a cure.

Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett joined Off the Cuff with the star of his new film, Dan Cohen, a New York social worker who discovered that by playing specific songs for Alzheimer's and dementia patients, he was able to bring them back to themselves and reconnect them to memories that were otherwise lost to their disease. With nothing more than an iPod, Cohen is, in a sense, truly bringing these people back to life – in a way that traditional science never has.

The film, which opens today in Los Angeles, also has much to say about the current state of the nursing home system (what one commentator calls a "shotgun marriage" between the poor house and the hospital) and our country's quickness to overmedicate when alternative methods of healing are available – and, in fact, less costly. Cohen's hope is to implement his music method in every care facility in the country (about 16,000 nursing homes), and that this film will help him make his case on a broader scale to reach that goal.

"It just so happened that there already was a lot of science behind this idea," he tells us. "Music therapists have known this for decades. You can't reach people by saying, 'Hey are you there?' because they aren't going to be able to respond in advanced dementia. But their emotional system is still very much intact, and when you connect them with music that has personal meaning from their youth, then they will come alive, and they will reminisce and they will become social and all these things start to happen that become life-changers."

And how did Rossato-Bennett become involved?

"A friend of mine knew I was dead broke and was like, 'Mike, I think I got a job here!'" he jokes. Luckily Alive Inside has turned out to mean much more than just a pay check – and could even possibly mean gold come Oscar time.