Considered by many to be a guitar prodigy and virtuoso, by the age of 19, Jason Becker had barely begun to scratch the surface of his potential. He had already made a name for himself as a member of heavy metal band Cacophony, touring the world and later releasing a successful solo album, which led to his landing him a gig with David Lee Roth's band.
Sadly, as he was wrapping up the recording for Roth's A Little Ain't Enough album and preparing to embark upon the promotional tour, he was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and this young talent could do nothing but watch his musical gift slowly erode.
As depressing as this scenario is, Becker's life after his heartbreaking diagnosis has been anything but, as chronicled in Jesse Vile's remarkable documentary, Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet.
The film begins as most documentaries do, complete with talking head interviews from friends, family and colleagues that knew the subject most intimately. Throw in some photos, concert footage and home videos and a vivid portrait is painted that reveals just how talented and loved Becker was.
Typically, as is the formula for tragic docs, a mid-film twist usually shifts the tone to focus on the depressing conclusion of the subject's life. But, instead, Becker's story takes an inspirational turn as we learn about his refusal to let go. With ALS ravaging his body, rendering him virtually paralyzed, Becker continues to make music with a painstakingly slow, but effective, eye-movement tracking system. Twenty-two years after his diagnosis and supposed "death sentence," Jason Becker is still very much alive.
While Vile occasionally pulls at the heartstrings of the audience a bit too overtly, he mostly manages to remain hands-off, allowing the story to evolve organically through the series of interviews. With professional camera work and a guitar-fuelled soundtrack, Not Dead Yet is a must-see for fans of Becker's music and, most of all, those seeking a feel-good story of triumph. (Kinosmith)