Matters of life and death explored on film and on the page in Winston-Salem

by Mark Burger

On Tuesday, March 16, the a/perture cinema (311 W. 4 th St., Winston- Salem) will present a special screening of the award-winning documentary Indestructible.

The feature directorial debut of actor and playwright Ben Byer, this is a firstperson

story chronicling his struggle with the incurable neuro-degenerative disease ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Having been diagnosed in 2002, he was determined to fight back by bringing his story to the screen, thereby offering hope for other ALS sufferers.

Taking matters (and cameras) into his own hands, Byer embarked on an eventful journey around the globe as he seeks possible treatments for his affliction, hoping for a cure.

In his official director’s statement, Byer said:

“Indestructible is an attempt to understand and accept the reality of a mysterious and deadly disease that has brought science to its knees, an illness that is a paradigm for life’s ultimate challenges. When we unlock the secrets of ALS we will better understand not only neuro-degeneration, but also aging, environment, psychology, spirituality and what it truly means to be both alive and facing mortality every day.”

In addition to Gehrig, other notable sufferers of ALS have included actors David Niven and Robert Webber, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, politicians Henry A. Wallace (former vice president of the United States) and Jacob Javits, jazz legend Charles Mingus and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

Since its completion, Indestructible has been making the rounds at film festivals and making waves wherever it plays. Among its many accolades are an Maverick Spirit Award from the Cinequest San Jose Film Festival, the Jury Award from the Lake County Film Festival and the Jury Prize from the Raindance Film Festival, to name a few.

“An intimate, lacerating, absorbing visual diary,” praised Eddie Cockrell of Variety. “An immersive, edifying journey of acceptance, setback and strength.”

Sadly, this would be Byer’s first and only film: The disease claimed his life in the summer of 2008.

Producer Rebeccah Rush (also Byer’s sister) is based in Winston-Salem, and is expected to be on hand for the event.

Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $7.50. All ticket proceeds from the screening will benefit the ALS Film Fund. For more information, see the film’s official website:

This Saturday, there will be a book-signing at Piedmont Used Books (3800 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem), with author Trudy J. Smith autographing copies of her true-crime book The Meaning of Our Tears, a follow-up to White Christmas, Bloody Christmas: The True Story of the Lawson Family Murders of Christmas Day, 1929, was published in 1990.


Area residents are undoubtedly familiar with this real-life horror story that took place, as the title implies, on Christmas Day in Stokes County more than 80 years ago, when tobacco farmer Charlie Lawson woke up Christmas morning and proceeded to murder his wife and six of their seven children.

What would drive a seemingly normal family man to go on such a violent rampage? The shockwaves continue to reverberate throughout Stokes County to this day.

The fascination with this case has only intensified over the years, with countless theories considered as to why Charlie committed such a hideous crime. Some believe that Charlie was not the killer. This book delves into both the conjecture and the facts surrounding this real-life crime spree, and explores the tragic legacy that continues to resonate.

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information, call 336.923.2437 or see