SFIFF 55 Closing Night

San Francisco International Film Festival 55

[I provide the San Francisco Film Society promotional blurb and add “My Take.”]

Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey
Thu, May 3    7:00 / Castro — Big Nights USA, 2012, 113 min
CREDITS
director – Ramona S. Diaz, cast – Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Deen Castronovo, Arnel Pineda, Ross Valory

CLOSING NIGHT The 55th San Francisco International Film Festival ends on a high note—a really high note—with an all night celebration kicked off by a rousing screening of Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey at the Castro Theatre, featuring director Ramona S. Diaz and all five members of Journey, and a rockin’ party with live entertainment, dancing, food and drinks

Arnel Pineda’s path from YouTube obscurity to stadium fame in becoming Journey’s new lead singer has inspired newspaper articles and TV talk show segments, but Ramona S. Diaz’s inspiring new film is an up-close and in-depth look at his past and present, from a homeless young adulthood singing on street corners in Manila to the sudden pressures of touring around the world and performing before crowds of thousands. Placing interviews with the candid Pineda (who at one point says he looks like he was placed in the band’s photos through Adobe Photoshop) alongside backstage camerawork that faithfully assumes his perspective, Diaz’s documentary is a counterpart to the exploration of public popularity in her 2003 portrait Imelda—focusing on Pineda’s rise from poverty to wealth, Diaz reveals the generosity of his spirit. She and the band also deliver electrifying musical sequences, including two distinctive homecoming shows, one of which registers as a validation of Pineda’s commitment to albums that he kept in his hope chest, and the power of his voice. “The way I see it, it’s a temporary thing,” Pineda says of his current gig, but Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey—while looking at a pair of cities by the Bay—gives it lasting life.
—Johnny Ray Huston

Ramona Diaz and Journey on stage

MY TAKEJourney was never on my radar, so I could not relate to their actual plight of finding a new lead singer, but Ramona Diaz told the story in such a way that made for a fascinating two hours. She focused on Arnel, but wove the story of behind-the-scenes looks at a hot band on the road around him. The closing concert in Manila had the packed Castro audience on its feet as one, nearly drowning out the applause on the soundtrack. WOW. Things calmed a bit during the credits and then the director, producers and all five members of Journey were introduced for a Q&A. The joint erupted again. The questions were mundane, but at one point Arnel sang a cappella; I don’t know or remember the song, but what a voice! Walking out of the theater, I said to Carol and Sarah, “That’s got to be the feel good movie of the Festival.” I’m not going to rush out and buy a Journey album, but I will keep an eye peeled for Romona Diaz’ next film.

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