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Movie Review: Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet

December 7, 2012

Jason Becker - Not Dead Yet PosterJason Becker: Not Dead Yet – A KinoSmith Release

Release Date: December 7th, 2012 @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Rated PG for mature themes and language

Running time: 87 minutes

Jesse Vile (dir.)

Jason Becker (music)

Michael Lee Firkins (music)

Jason Becker as Himself

Ehren Becker as Himself

Gary Becker as Himself

Pat Becker as Herself

Ron Becker as Himself

Jason Becker - Not Dead Yet

©KinoSmith.  All Rights Reserved.

Jason Becker finds a new way to communicate in Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet.

Our reviews below:


Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

Directed by Jesse Vile and premiering at Hot Docs last May, Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet gives us an interesting look at the title subject, from his teenaged years as a praised and highly respected guitar prodigy, to his ongoing adult life overcoming the challenges of being paralyzed.

When Jason Becker was given a guitar for Christmas at five years old, his love of music turned him into a virtuoso performer.  As a teenager, he attracted the attention of numerous musicians and producers, who immediately recognized both his understanding of music and passion for playing guitar.  He was a rising star who could only go up, until it all came crashing down when he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease at nineteen and forced to stop touring as a guitarist for David Lee Roth.  Although the disease took away his voice and ability to move his own body without the assistance of a wheelchair, his father Gary came up with an ingenious alphabet chart to help with communication and a computer program that he could control with his eyes to continue making music.

The first half of the documentary shows us the rise of Jason Becker and his promising career, which makes his diagnosis all the more heartbreaking and his ability to continue making music all the more triumphant.  A strong testimony to how music can help us all overcome adversity, Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is a touching documentary that is worth checking out.


Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet Review by Erin V.  

***1/2 (out of 4)

I first became aware of this film when it played at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto.  Now opening to limited release (at the Bloor Cinema in Toronto, check local listings), Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is an excellent documentary about guitarist prodigy Jason Becker, who at the height of his young career in the ‘80’s, was diagnosed with ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Given only 3-5 years to live it seemed practically a death sentence, but what was even more scary was when Jason realized that as he lost muscle tone (ALS is a degenerative muscle disease), he could no longer play guitar and his composing and music was being locked inside him as his body wasted away.

But thanks to technology and a ‘eye sign language’ chart his father made, with support, Jason became able to communicate and compose again.  And miraculously does so to this day.  This film is a testament to the human will, and how having a passion that you can express creates a life worth living.  Jason’s music is amazing, and his is a story of what support and passion can do.

The film from a technical side is also very well put together.  It opens with a history of Jason’s life, as told by family and friends as well as archival footage, until we catch up to present day.  It is at times funny, other’s heartbreaking, and always entertaining.  It is paced as a very cinematic documentary, following its narrative so that at times, despite knowing the outcome, we are left half-guessing.  If you can, this is definitely one worth checking out.


Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet Review by Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet shares a remarkable story that is an inspiration to everyone.  The film begins in Jason’s childhood.  Receiving his first guitar at 5, he soon began playing at a virtuoso level.  By 13, he became a child prodigy, bringing classical techniques into heavy metal rock.  His amazing music, much of it composed himself, got him fame in the music world.  But at age 19, Jason was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and was given 3-5 years to live.

While his body became paralyzed, his mind stayed intact, with beautiful music trapped inside.  So Jason, with the help of his father Gary (himself a painter of wonderfully mysterious works of art), create a unique communication system using eye movements that enables him to speak non-verbally and dictate music.  To this day, Jason continues to compose beautiful and complex music using eye dictation and computer software.  He also scored the film.

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is a beautiful documentary.  Jason’s optimism and determination is quite contagious, and his story will resonate with artists and non-artists alike.  His confidence to find a way to continue to share his music with the world came after a near-death glimpse of light.  While this is only a brief mention, it shows that even when things seem to go wrong, there is always a plan for us.  But this is not to say Jason Becker is some kind of saint.  He actually compares himself to Family Guys Peter Griffin.  But being an average guy makes his story even more inspiring.

As someone who grew up around the special needs community, I have always connected to stories that focus on ability, not incapability.  Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is a wonderful film that is inspiring no matter who you are.


Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet Review by Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

It’s clear from the early home videos that Jason Becker always had a musician’s soul.  His raw talent on the guitar and his passion for musical composition are the main reasons Jason is filled with the love of life that has helped keep him alive over twenty years after his diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Director Jesse Vile’s documentary Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is an inspiring, uplifting and heartbreaking portrait of rising star guitarist Jason Becker whose life path and purpose is forever changed by his diagnosis.  Told through old home footage, interviews with his devoted parents Gary and Pat, his brother Ehren, Uncle Ron and a wonderful circle of friends including ex-girlfriends, lots of concert footage and voiceover segments dictated by Jason through an eye blink communication device, this documentary has a wonderful sense of love and respect for his story.  It is a real testimony to the power of love and support in the face of difficult circumstances.

Mostly, Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet shows how music that comes from deep within a soul is a powerful force.  Jason Becker is just as much a musician today composing pieces such as the documentary score as he was at 19 when he earned a spot as guitarist in David Lee Roth’s band.  While he can no longer play his guitar, he continues to compose using computer technology and eye blinks.  ALS might have stilled his physical body, but his mind and soul remain filled with love and music.

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is a must see documentary for anyone interested in the power of music and the incredible challenges of ALS.


Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is a documentary about the California musician who as a teen in the 1980s was the next greatest guitarist, incorporating the best of the rock tradition as well as the classics of Bach and others. In 1990, he was diagnosed at 19 with ALS, ending up completely paralyzed with only 3–5 years life expectancy. His father Gary devised a means of communication by eye movement allowing Becker to continue his brilliant career. His survival to this day is a tribute to his love of life, relentless creativity, technology, and the support of his parents, brother, and other caregivers.

The 87 minute documentary by Jesse Vile includes archival footage right from birth through Becker’s early career and his life with ALS. It is an inspiration as much to a general audience as to the music and disability communities.


Consensus: The story of a guitar prodigy diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and forced to find a new way to follow his passion, Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is a touching documentary about how music can help in overcoming adversity.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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