a film by Berry Minott

A cure for Alzheimer’s.
A Nobel Prize.
On one remote island, a high stakes battle to solve a medical mystery unfolds.

brain Dr. John Steele cycad Dr. Paul Alan Cox bat Dr. Peter Spencer Dr. Kwang-Ming Chen Dr. Deborah Mash Dr. Walter Bradley

Dr. Oliver Sacks

“I was tremendously impressed with by your film, encyclopedic in scope and beautifully woven together”
- Oliver Sacks, Author, Neurologist


As we are an aging society and diseases like Alzheimer's will be of epidemic proportions in the next decade, it is essential to understand know causes these diseases. "The Illness and the Odyssey" allows us to explore whether the diseases are caused by a toxin, genetics or infectious agent. I believe if we know the cause we can find a cure.


For many of us, it’s only a matter of time. By 2030, one in four Americans over 65 will have Alzheimer’s disease—the best known of a family of maladies that attack the brain. Though the global medical community is hard at work testing drugs and other treatments that will go beyond merely treating the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases, medical efforts are challenged to keep pace with the anticipated epidemic. It is a race against time—a race to find the cause that might lead to a cure. The answer may well be found on the small island of Guam in the South Pacific. THE ILLNESS AND THE ODYSSEY pursues the quest by some of the best medical sleuths in our era to isolate the cause of “Lytico-Bodig,” a deadly neurological disease that has specifically plagued the Chamorros, native islanders of Guam for two centuries. Lytico-Bodig—known nowadays as ALS/PDC—manifests itself in human beings as a brutal combination of Amyotrophic lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. To date, there is no proven cause that triggers the onset of Lytico-Bodig disease. Through the years, medical research careers have been made and lost competing to find an explanation for Lytico-Bodig disease. Why is Lytico-Bodig so important to our understanding of neurodegenerative disease? Because it is found in an isolated population in an isolated location—a circumstance that gives medical researchers a relatively narrow set of variables to study and understand. And, if researchers hit pay dirt in their study of Lytico-Bodig, they are confident they can use what they learn in their battle against all of the mind-wasting maladies. Thus far, three competing theories of Lytico-Bodig causation are under debate. The first proposes a toxin in the environment is the culprit; the next, an infectious agent; the last, genetics. THE ILLNESS AND THE ODYSSEY follows three scientists, each of whom has dedicated the major portion of their careers to proving one of these hypotheses. As so often happens in human pursuits—even scientific ones—the debate among them has been intense and passionate to the point of enmity. Meanwhile, there is a new set of investigative minds from the University of California San Francisco that brings hope to finding the cause of this catastrophic disease. Viewers will be witness to an observable instance of history in the making as they watch what the UCSF team reveals. Using intimate interviews, verite documentary scenes, rare archival footage and an original music score, THE ILLNESS AND THE ODYSSEY traces the story of the scientists who hope to reveal who is right and who is not.


"Minott Tracks "Illness" to Guam"
SF360 (August 01, 2011)
Michael Fox reporting on the filming of "The Illness and the Odyssey"