03 October 2007


I got a free ticket to see this movie as part of the Midwest Independent Film Festival last night. Filmmaker Ben Byer was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) a few years ago and decided to document his experience--everything involved in dealing with a degenerative and incurable illness, from physical decline, to research on (and pursuit of) potential treatments, the toll on family and friends, and what it takes to survive from day to day. Byers plays with his son (who grows from 2 to 4 in the course of the film), applies for disability benefits, interviews medical experts, travels the world to investigate (and partake in) purported cures and treatments, commiserates with fellow patients, and ponders his mortality. This was a very moving film that makes you consider what makes life worth living. With all this guy is going through, and as you see his body deteriorate, you wonder that he can still smile (and it's a great smile). Interviewee Oliver Sacks asks Byers what helps him forget his illness. "When I'm working...when I'm with my son," Byers says. Sacks nods, apologetically quotes Freud ("not very popular now"): "Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanity."

Or something like that. Byers and his sister appeared at the screening, which was the Midwestern premiere (the film has been shown at festivals) and it was gratifying to see him in the flesh, very much alive, and still grinning.

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