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About The Film

A group of elderly musicians files into a rehearsal space, a few gently led by loved ones or caregivers. As they take their seats on a small stage where they are about to perform, there seems to be nothing to note about their outward appearance except a quietness, an absence of emotion. This is caused by common thread; each suffers from a malady of the mind.

Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s

Yet when the music starts, they are transformed. The rhythms and melodies stir something deep within each of them, easing clenched jaws into smiles as music flows freely and steadily from their instruments and voices. 

The 5th Dementia, comprised of a trumpet player, violinist, percussionist, two pianists, a conductor, two harmonica players and a varying number of devoted singers, comes together twice a week to play and sing to a list of songs compiled by Gene, their bandleader and drummer. The joy that they bring to each other and their audiences is so palpable that it’s not uncommon for many of them to be moved to tears while performing.

Music Mends Minds, the non-profit organization behind the band, had me hooked from the first moment I saw a performance at a small church in Brentwood, their rehearsal space of several years. These are men and women leading lives with almost no social interaction who show very little emotion outside the rehearsal space, yet their music so uplifts them that they even flash a sense of humor (as evidenced by their band name) when they address the audience after each performance ends. 

These performances are amazing to witness. The group features former professionals from a range of socio economic and educational backgrounds who now struggle to remember anything at all due to their illnesses, yet when they are instructed to play a given song they dive right in without a single page of sheet music. Memories otherwise entirely unreachable are unlocked.

The 5th Dementia Documentary will be filmed over a period of 6 months to capture rehearsals, performances, profiles of each member of the band via visits their homes, and in-depth interviews with their loved ones, spouses, and caregivers. Through uniquely personal stories, we’ll track everything from inspiring daily triumphs to the sobering toll of slow mental decline, ultimately allowing viewers a glimpse at the inexplicable, euphoric impact of music on the lives of these men and women.