Life is strange, unpredictable. In the midst of clear skies, a thunderbolt. The cruel, the unexpected takes us, shakes us up. We find a way to deal, to go on. Or not.
Bob Benjamin is a New Jersey music producer and promoter who found a way to deal with the cruel thunderbolt. After establishing himself in the Jersey Shore music business, working with artists like John Prine and Joe Grushecky, he was diagnosed in 1996 with Parkinson’s disease. “Just Around The Corner” tells the story of his response to that diagnosis.
Divided into a series of chapters, “Corner” begins with a simple biography of Benjamin’s early years and interviews with his family and friends. His father and Bob himself speak movingly of the powerful effect of watching his mother’s brave fight against breast cancer, and the inspiration he took from that when facing his own trial. Further chapters detail his diagnosis, his activism and fundraising efforts for Parkinson’s victims, and details of the progression of the disease, which affects muscle control and flexibility.
Benjamin’s response to his condition has been to co-found, with Tony Pallagrosi and Joe D’Urso, the Light of Day Foundation, which raises money for Parkinson’s research . The first fundraiser was a single benefit concert on Bob’s birthday, featuring many area musicians, including Springsteen. That simple beginning has grown into an international concert series, raising large sums of money and spreading awareness of the disease. 6Interspersed through each chapter is performance footage from various Light of Day concerts, including music from Grushecky, former Smithereens frontman Pat Dinizio, Jesse Malin, Willie Nile, and Bruce Springsteen, among others.
The storytelling here from directors/editors Steve Caniff and Jim Justice is refreshingly direct and straightforward, much as Benjamin is described in the many interviews. No flashy visual effects, no intrusive narration, just people speaking about someone who has done something special in the face of enormous challenges. A particular highlight is interview footage with fellow Parkinson’s sufferer Michael J. Fox, who provides a memorable metaphor for his and Benjamin’s response to their diagnosis. Also memorable is the recounting of a harrowing episode where Benjamin’s muscular degeneration left him “frozen” on the floor of his apartment without medication or food for three and a half days.
While the “public service announcement” aspect of the film is clear (and worthy), it never overwhelms its very human subject. Location footage is used to good effect, and the occasional illustrative effects are judiciously deployed. Music fans might find the concert footage a little frustrating, broken up as it is by interview segments, but the performances are mostly solid, and clearly the performers feel the import of being a part of a worthy cause. To further that cause, Virgil Films is donating all proceeds from the sales of this DVD release to the Light of Day Foundation.
“Just Around The Corner” is presented by Virgil Films in 16:9 widescreen format. Picture quality is fine, though the limited lighting in the interview segments is revealed at times by the digital photography.
The audio track is clear and satisfying, though no Dolby treatment or other digital effects are noted.
--picture gallery: a nice slide show of photos from Light of Day concerts, accompanied by tracks by Joe Grushecky and his band the Houserockers
--biographies of the board members of the Light of Day Foundation
--a list of the performers in the film, along with their web addresses
--a portfolio of Light of Day concert photos by professional lensman Danny Clinch, accompanied by music from Jesse Malin
--“how to donate” information
--a list of special thanks from Virgil Films
Life is strange, unpredictable. In the midst of clear skies, Bob Benjamin was hit by the thunderbolt, yet found a way to accept that cruel twist and transform it into motivation for something greater. “Just Around The Corner” shows us that transformation with a admirable directness and simplicity. Surrounded by artists working in the medium of music, Benjamin creates art of his own, in the grace and commitment with which he lives.