Filmmaker Ben Byer's two-hour documentary "Indestructible" tracked three years of his life since being diagnosed with ALS in 2002. He was only 31 and the father of a young son when the film began.
Like some of us do, Ben refused to accept his neurologist's edict. He and his father struck out on a quest for a cure.
The odyssey takes Ben to China, where he explores ancient herbal remedies, visits Tibetan monks and consults a Chinese physician peddling an experimental surgery.
After nervous consideration, Ben undergoes the questionable, risky and expensive procedure in which fetal cells are implanted in his brain and spinal cord.
Ben's story also exposes the grief and tension such an ordeal can bring to a family.
Ben's journey then turns from the physical to the spiritual. He seeks out his religious roots in Israel. He consults a rabbi/scholar. He prays at Jerusalem's Western Wall.
Finally, Ben and his older brother travel to the edge of the Judean desert, where they make the three-hour climb to Masada. At that mountain fortress in 72 A.D., Jewish rebels facing a massive Roman army chose death over slavery.
The film ends with a 13-year-old videotape showing a much younger Ben expressing his desire to one day direct a film and see it on the big screen.
He was there in that San Jose theater, along with his sister Rebeccah and his parents, to see his dream realized.
For me, Ben's message is all about hope.
A cynic once defined hope as a cosmic lie. The man was evidently talking about another kind of hope, one involving improbable expectations.
The dramatist and former Czech President Vaclav Havel described hope as having nothing to do with the state of the world. Rather, it's an orientation of the spirit.
"Hope is a state of mind, not of the world," he said.
I nurture my hope through the examples set by people like Ben Byer and so many other men and women who struggle daily with ALS or other terminal diseases.
L.C. Greene, a reporter and videographer for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and Sun, was diagnosed with ALS on Aug. 16, 2006.
“Indestructible is a stirring narrative, a movie of epic dramatic force that holds its own with the best of any major work of cinema.”
-Beverly Berning, Culture Vulture
“An intimate, lacerating, absorbing visual diary of the three-year onset of terminal disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in aspiring filmmaker Ben Byer, Indestructible is an immersive, edifying journey of acceptance, setback and strength.” -Eddie Cockrell, Variety
“Gripping…courageous.” -Gary Goldstein, LA Times
“…an autobiographical tour-de-force…”
-Harry van Versendaal, International Herald Tribune
“Byer masters the art of personal reportage.”
-Bill Stamets, Chicago Sun-Times
“…a wrenching reminder that the answers to our most essential questions must come from within.”
-Sam Sweet, LA Weekly
“Unforgettable…much more than just a film.” -Shelley Gabert, Film Stew
“Radiant!” -Masha Savitz, The Epoch Times
“Byer demonstrates the humanity and humor that can be retained even in the face of debilitating disease.” -SFist
“ ! This is a must see film for everyone that celebrates life.”
-Patrick McDonald, The Last Blog in Cyberspace
“Intimate, often funny, at moments hopeful and at others infuriating.”
-Gayle Worland, Wisconsin State Journal
“Byer exudes an ebullient and celebratory attitude, and experiences a series of unspeakable joys and sorrows, carrying the audience along with him.”
-Nathan Southern, All Movie Guide
“Definitely the most fearless and personal (and also the best) documentary of [Cinequest].”
-Jason Wiener, Jason Watches Movies
“One of the most touching, powerful films I’ve ever seen.”
-Paul Aflalo, Citizen Shift
“…a rare spirit…Ben’s inner journey is beyond words…phenomenal.”
-John Campbell, Byron Shire Echo