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Documentary chronicles life of Bay Area musician with ALS

March 2, 2012 10:56:49 PM PST
A Richmond man who has defied the odds in music and medicine is the star of a new documentary premiering in San Jose.

Jason Becker was on his way to becoming a rock star. But that didn't happen. At age 20, Jason was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He slowly lost the ability to control his body. Doctors gave him just three to five years to live.

When ABC7 first met him in 1996, he had already proved the doctors wrong. Now he is 42 years old.

And almost more incredible, during all those years, even though Jason can't move or speak, he has continued composing spectacular music. His music has fans all over the world, from heavy metal guitar lovers to ballet companies.

ABC7 talked director Jesse Vile about his film "Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet" and why he wanted to make a movie about Jason.

"His story isn't just the story of a rock star or a kid trying to realize his dreams, it's really the story of family and love and triumph over adversity; those are all themes that are universal," Vile said.

Jason thinks the movie's title is "funny."

The documentary explains how Jason's father invented a system of eye movements so Jason could communicate.

"Basically it's an eye geometry," Gary Becker said. "Every letter of the alphabet has a special angle and its two eye movements."

Jason spells out his thoughts. His family and friends interpret.

The film shows Jason composing; working with his father note by note.

"So guitar to computer, and once Jason has his notes on the computer, he has something to work with and play with; that's like his palette and he can start to paint his songs," Gary Becker said.

The documentary is an independent production, paid for with fundraising events, contributions from Jason's rock star buddies, and donations from fans.

His family has been overwhelmed.

"How much he means to people; how many people tell him he's changed their lives in every way," Jason's mother Pat Becker said.

Through the movie, Jason says he really wants people to focus on his music and that life doesn't always turn out the way you planned and sometimes that can be OK.

The documentary about Jason Becker premieres Saturday night in San Jose. It's part of the Cinequest Film Festival.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney


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