January 21, 2019 Mind Over Matter (Documentary Review)
“Music is the most powerful, unexplainable force on earth.” So begins the inspiring Mind Over Matter, which has already won a slew of awards for itself on the festival circuit. The brand-new Documentary arrives to major digital platforms on Friday, January 25, 2019, thanks to Sumerian Films.
This is the story of Brandon Mendenhall: a devout music lover, a guitarist, a songwriter, and someone who suffers from cerebral palsy (CP). Born premature to a teenage mother, he was diagnosed as a child with the condition that is actually an umbrella term for a group of disorders that affect movement. In Brandon’s case, his CP affects the left side of his body, particularly his eye, speech, hand, and foot. At a young age, doctors had already informed him that he would never play music, that playing any instrument would be an impossibility with his condition.
Mind Over Matter delves into Brandon’s journey: from the heart-wrenching idea of never playing music, to torment at the hands of school bullies, to a seemingly endless battery of painful surgeries necessary to keep him walking. “They see the disability first and the person second,” he explains as he relates his experiences. In some respects, the in-school bullying throughout his formative years was not so different from many others’ painful experiences: he didn’t want to be different but he was, and his classmates were relentless. Brandon’s hauntingly emotional reminiscences are even echoed by Jonathan Davis of KoЯn in a candid, on-screen interview. KoЯn, you say? Yes, there is a tie-in at work here.
As a pre-teen, Brandon attended an Alabama concert at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and, along with other youngsters in the crowd, was invited on stage. He credits this moment with planting the seed in his heart, but it wasn’t until several years later that this desire to rock would fully blossom when he first heard a new band named KoЯn. From his first aural encounter with the band’s single “Blind,” off their 1994 self-titled debut, Brandon’s life changed and music became his driving force. The boy who grew up in a trailer park 60-miles from Chicago began frequenting concerts where he was the first to arrive and the last to leave, all in hopes of meeting the musicians who brought happiness into his life.
Fast forward. Brandon has struggled through immense personal lows and some short highs as he makes his way through life and, ultimately, decides to grab the bull by the horns and form his own band, The Mendenhall Experiment (TMX). We watch as the group go through several lineups along with the struggles that so many young bands face in this pay-to-play world. As the varying incarnations of TMX play nearly every venue on the infamous Sunset Strip, they share stages with the likes of Adema, P.O.D., Smile Empty Soul, and Fear Factory, and go on to win a Guitar Center San Bernardino Battle of the Bands as well as second place in the Battle for Vans Warped Tour 2014. But in the world of entertainment, nothing is ever a given. Will Brandon be able to achieve his dreams and prove all of the naysayers wrong?
Directed by French Filmmaker and Rock Photographer Sébastien Paquet (Wounded Warriors documentary short 2012, Korn and the Prodigy Son documentary short 2017), Mind Over Matter clocks in at roughly 87-minutes runtime. The Documentary authors Brandon’s story, both personal and professional, and shows the hurdles that he has jumped on his way toward recognizing his dream. In simplest terms, this is the story of a man who lives and breathes music, who has been healed by music, and who wants to use his own music to give this back to others.
Throughout the film, interviews with a slew of individuals from throughout Brandon’s life serve to strengthen his story. There are childhood friends, teachers and professors, along with former bandmates; Rockline Radio Producer and the band’s manager Gregg Journigan; Fabian Quiroz and Dave Ye of Lucent Records; Chris Collier, the band’s producer; former Korn Manager Jimmy Bryant; Dennis Yohnka of The Daily Journal; fellow musicians such as Nita Strauss and John 5; Concert Promoter Metal Sanaz; Ronald S. Cohen, UCPLA President and CEO; Dr. Brendan Riley, podiatric surgeon; and even TMX fans. And, of course, members of the band who changed Brandon’s life: Vocalist Jonathan Davis and Guitarists Brian ‘Head’ Welch and James ‘Munky’ Shaffer from the Grammy Award-winning KoЯn.
Let’s be honest, even if you have an inspiring story and a beautifully-crafted Documentary behind you, it’s all for naught if you don’t have the music to back it, right? So, do The Mendenhall Experiment rock? Pfft, of course! Melodic and catchy yet fully rocking, TMX’s tracks soar throughout the film and prove that Brandon and his bandmates have the talents, passion, and dedication necessary to succeed in music. With an inspiring and uplifting message, The Mendenhall Experiment — Mendenhall, Vocalist Mario Valadez, Guitarist Mike Lira, Bassist Nathan Stockton, and Drummer Bruce Lira — are bringing something positive to Metal and you need to hear them now!
Some fans are going to come solely for the KoЯn tie-in, though the take away from Mind Over Matter should not be diminished to simply one fan’s tale of Rock-n-Roll ambition. No, this is an underdog story and a tale of the healing power of music. Perhaps the beauty of this Documentary is in its raw, unfiltered honesty and emotion: this is not a fantastical, shiny-happy-everything story; there are mountains that must be climbed and, though he always rises above, Brandon does crash land. This makes him real and relatable, this gives his story weight, and it makes his lessons learned that much stronger. In short, you can do anything if you put your mind to it, and Brandon’s life very much proves this fact. Wishing him all the continued success and happiness in this world, Cryptic Rock give Mind Over Matter 5 of 5 stars.