Jesse Vile's heartbreaking documentary Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is about a guitar prodigy who discovered he had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, at the tender age of 20 and on the cusp of international fame.
Thanks to interviews with Jason Becker's family, friends and peers, as well as homemade footage and photographs from his childhood in Richmond, CA, through his first tastes of rock stardom in the late 1980s, Vile shows how truly gifted, confident and eternally optimistic the shredder was–and has for the most part remained for 22 years as one of the longest known ALS survivors.
After David Lee Roth helped sell 30 million records with Eddie Van Halen at the axe, followed by two platinum solo sellers with another guitar god, Steve Vai, Becker was chosen as Roth's new “it” guitarist based solely on a cassette tape being played into a phone receiver. Becker got his diagnosis–a death sentence, really–on the eve of touring after cutting an album with Roth. Lou Gehrig's disease is incurable, neurodegenerative and fatal.
Excellent editing by Gideon Gold and attractive insert shots by director of photography Carl Burke help propel Vile's story forward through the dark years of Becker's life. These days, he can no longer speak or hold a guitar, but he miraculously still makes music. As Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet shows, loved ones around him get much of the credit for that. “I'm not in pain,” he says at one point through a translator. “I still have so much passion not just for music but relationships and friends. I mean life is full of love and fun.” Words to live by.
Here is the trailer:
Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet at p.m. at Starlight Cinemas, Triangle Square, Costa Mesa. $12.
Also recommended today: Behind the Orange Curtain at 3:45 p.m. at Triangle Square and 8 and 8:15 p.m. at Big Newport; A Fierce Green Fire at 5 p.m. at Triangle Square; The War Around Us at 5 p.m. and Songs for Amy at 7:30 p.m. at Fashion Island Cinemas.