Dec 02

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet | Film Review

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This documentary is about something that you would think is a depressing subject: one of the best guitarists in the world, with a glittering career ahead of him full of fame and fortune instead gets what is possibility the worst disease a person can get with has a staggeringly high fatality rate attached; Lou Gehrig’s Disease, an incurable and fatal neurodegenerative disease. But the documentary is far from depressing, instead what you get is a film of hope, and perseverance against all of the odds.

When I put the screener into my computer I braced myself, I though the film would be very sad, and there is sadness in it of course, but Jason Becker and the people around him are the best that humanity has to offer. Jason looks great and his father came up with an eye sign language so he could communicate with his son. For someone who had such riches in front of him he does not seem bitter, he just seems like an incredibly talented man who has made the most of his life, who has an amazing family and who did not let a terrible disease stop his talent for making music.

Jason was told he would not make it past his 25th birthday, but he is still alive 22 years later.

This film should be seen by everyone who thinks there life is hard, and definitely seen by anyone who is full of self-pity. A wonderful, joyous film that should be seen by all. I hope it becomes a classic.

‘Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet’ is a feature-length documentary that tells the extraordinary story of Jason Becker, a musical prodigy and guitar legend, who has been battling with ALS for 22 years. A paralyzing, terminal illness with no cure, the disease has trapped Jason inside of his body rendering him completely paralyzed. Using an eye communication system invented by his father, Jason is able to escape the confines of his body and release the music that is trapped inside of his mind. ‘Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet’ is a story of dreams, love and the strength of the human spirit.

The year is 1989, and all the dreams of Jason Becker, a down-to-earth teenager from
California, have just come true. Jason has just landed himself the biggest rock guitar gig
on the planet. He’s on the cover of every rock guitar magazine and is being hailed by
critics as a musical prodigy in line to become one of the all-time greats. Jason and his
family have found the American dream and are about to start living it.
One week from now, during an examination of his leg, their dreams will turn into a
nightmare when Jason is diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and given just 3-5 years to live.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) is an incurable and
fatal neurodegenerative disease. In just a short time, victims of ALS become completely
paralyzed while their minds remains 100% in tact; essentially trapping them inside their
own bodies. In most cases, ALS affects people in older age but Jason was just 19 when
he was diagnosed. There is neither a cure nor any real treatment available, and the
majority of sufferers die within 2-5 years. Jason was diagnosed with ALS 22 years ago
and is one of the longest known survivors.

Jason Becker grew up in an artistic family from Richmond, California, a lower income city
located in the San Francisco Bay Area, where his parents Gary and Patricia Becker
nurtured his interest in music. Jason started playing guitar at the age of 5 and his rare
talent immediately began to show. Jason’s true brilliance became apparent when he was
able to play Eric Clapton solos note for note at the age of 12 and was shocking audiences
at his school and local open mic shows.

At the age of 16, Jason answered a call for demo tape submissions by local Shrapnel
Records label founder, Mike Varney, who was looking for the best new guitar talent.
Mike was blown away by Jason’s tape and gave him a recording contract. Jason
graduated from high school early to record his first record and to tour the US and Japan
where he dazzled audiences with his incredible guitar playing. After releasing three
groundbreaking and influential records for the genre, Jason began looking for his next
big challenge.

In 1989, ex-Van Halen singer David Lee Roth was looking for a new lead guitarist for his
band. Mike Varney played Jason’s demo tape for Roth over the phone who immediately
sent Jason a plane ticket to come audition in Los Angeles. Shortly after the audition,
Jason was offered the biggest rock guitar gig on the planet. At the age of 19, Jason was
set to become the hottest guitarist in the world.

A week later, Jason went to the doctors to have them check his left leg that had been
limping for the past few months. After a series of painful tests, doctors confirmed that
Jason had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and gave him just 3-5 years to live. Jason’s
parents were devastated but Jason shrugged off the diagnosis as he had big plans for his
future. He was going to tour the world and live out his dream of being a rock star. But
during the course of recording the new album for Roth, the limp feeling in Jason’s leg
worsened and began to spread to his hands making it difficult to play. Luckily Jason
finished the album (which went Gold) but he was unable to make the tour and had to
leave Roth’s band

Jesse Vile, the director says: I’ve wanted to make a film about Jason Becker since I was a 15-year-old kid trying to learn, rather unsuccessfully, all of his songs on the guitar. Jason is the most amazing
human being I’ve ever known and, like many others around the world, he has been a
personal source of inspiration for me for many years. I’ve always felt that his unique
and powerful story needed a much wider audience and I felt compelled to be the one to
tell his story.

Although I’m a fan of Jason’s music, I didn’t want to make just a fan film as I think that
would be selling his story short. I wanted to make a film that was universal and that had
a human story at its core that many people could identify with. Jason’s story is an
interesting one in that it isn’t your typical rock star tale. It isn’t a “musician-becomes-
famous-gets-hooked-on-drugs-nearly-dies-and-then-redeems-themselves” kind of story
you hear so often. Those are all fine but Jason’s story goes so much deeper than that. It
is really a story about love, family and the strength of the human spirit.

This film is also a chance for Jason to tell his story and to show the man behind the
legend. This is an authorized documentary and a collaborative project with Jason and his
family. Their involvement has been key to the film’s success

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet [DVD]