Review: Indestructible at Cinequest
SFist tends to stick pretty close to SF but this week’s Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose has been calling to us and we made it all way to the SoBay to check out the world premier of Indestructible. Indestructible is the autobiographical documentary of Ben Byer beginning when he is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) disease at the age of 31. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that is often viewed as a death sentence because those afflicted with it usually die within a few years of being diagnosed. Unlike Alzheimer’s, ALS sufferers retain full mental facility even as their muscular system wastes away and they become unable to walk, feed themselves or speak.
The narrative of Indestructible is focused on Byer’s search for hope via treatments all over the world and on his interactions with his young son. After undergoing a risky and experimental surgery in China, Byer returns to the US to be with his son John. John steals the show with his hammy love of the camera and the way in that he accepts his father’s illness as part of life. In one scene, which is both painful and heartwarming at the same time a five year old John feeds his father spaghetti. Byer and his family attended the premier of the film. After it showed there was a brief Q & A session during which it became apparent that many in the audience were related to sufferers of ALS. They expressed thanks for the hope they felt this film offered them and their loved ones. Byer himself has outlived the expectations of doctors that were presented when he was diagnosed, though his speech has continued to deteriorate and he is now in a wheel chair.
Despite the depressing nature of ALS, Indestructible is an upbeat film. The theme of the film is framed during an interview with the famed neurologist Oliver Sacks (think Awakenings) when he quotes Freud as saying, “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanity”. In focusing the film so closely on his work as a filmmaker and on his love for his family (Byer’s siblings and parents also feature prominently in the film) Byer demonstrates the humanity and humor that can be retained even in the face of debilitating disease.
Indestructible shows again as part of the Cinequest Film Festival. Saturday, March 10th, 3:45 pm at the Camera 12 theater at 201 2nd Street in San Jose
Posted by Emily in Movies , Reviews, sfist.com