Update - SFiFF 55 - When the Light's Go Down at the SFiFF... ("Don't Stop Believin' - Everyman's Journey")
The 55th San Francisco International Film Festival closed with a screening of "Don't Stop Believin' - Everyman's Journey," Ramona Diaz's new documentary chronicling the journey of Arnel Pineda. His trek from a Phillipine cover band to lead vocalist for the classic rock band "Journey" (via You Tube) is an incredible story.
Diaz got a "heads up" from a Phillipine emigration official and jumped on the opportunity to capture
Pineda's growth from anxious audition-er to full-fledged rock star. From recording studio to concert tour bus, to venues around the United States and - finally - to a triumphant Manila concert, you can't help but root for this incredible likable performer. Pineda is genuinely humbled by the opportunity given him, and always seems to be waiting for the balloon to burst.
The other members of "Journey" (Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory, Deen Castronovo)quickly realize they've managed to capture 'lightning in a bottle' again, and mentor Pineda through the hard times of touring. As we already know how the story turns out, there's a noticeable lack of suspense or conflict - or at least any that we see. Schon hinted at the Q&A after the screening that he may have been a bit problematic at times, but it doesn't show in the finished film.
At just under two hours, the film is a bit too long for its own good. The scenes "on the road" get a bit repetitive and, as I stated earlier, we already know how the story ends. The film's excess length is almost made up for by the personable Pineda and, indeed, all the members of the band. Almost, but not quite. This was the second time I'd screened the film, but my first time with an audience. While the film plays much better in a theatre with a kick-ass sound system set to "11" and surrounded by fans, I could sense the audience start to get a bit restless when the film started to drag.
Perhaps they were getting restless hoping for the band to come up on stage for the post-screening Q&A. Indeed they did, along with Director Diaz and the film's producers. After a few expected questions ("Have you ever met Steve Perry?") I managed to get one in that expanded on a statement made by a fan in the film. A Phillipino fan says something along the lines that the band "didn't realize that when they made Pineda their lead singer that they were adopting an entire country." I asked the members of the band how this new fan base had impacted them. Jonathan Cain stated how appreciative they were, especially for the fact they "actually buy CD's." Pineda chimed in "and merchandise!" Ross Valory also jumped in to confirm another statement made in the film, that the Phillipino fan's "won't take NO for an answer!" He didn't elaborate.
"Don't Stop Believin - Everyman's Journey" is a rock and roll film minus the sex and drugs (for the most part.) It is a joyous film, a "Horatio Alger " tale for the rock and roll age and, needless to say, the soundtrack ROCKS!