San Francisco International Film Festival Closing Night

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From left to right: Deen Castronovo, Neal Schon, Ramona Diaz, Arnel Pineda, Jonathan Cain, and Ross Valory. Photo by Annabelle Udo-O'Malley

There’s always something interesting about the power of the red carpet — there’s some kind of alchemy that happens and brings it to life when celebrities take their magical ride down the crimson path. The cameras flash and people move about in anticipation to get a closer stare in this ultimate activity of people watching.

The historic Castro Theatre was bejeweled with the drizzle of San Francisco mist. A giddy audience waited in anticipation for Neal Schon, Ross Valory, Jonathan Cain, Deen Castronovo, and Arnel Pineda to take their walk.

For Journey, the legendary Bay Area rock band to be at the San Francisco International Film Festival’s closing night, it was an important evening not only for the festival but for themselves having gone through their own journey (it’s an over-used pun, but it really works). They have triumphantly returned to their Bay Area roots and evolved from the all-American, big-haired 1980’s band and revamped fortuitously into an international one.

The addition of Philippines-born Pineda, who joined the group as its new lead singer in 2007, prompted veteran filmmaker Ramona Diaz to create an unparalleled rockumentary that she describes as a good story that she just couldn’t pass up — and it was a good thing she didn’t. Pineda’s rags to riches ascension to fame is chronicled in “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey”, which showcases his atmospheric vocal acrobatics but also his humility amidst a similar platform that he now shares with renowned boxer, Manny Pacquiao.

When asked who has the tougher job, him or Pacquiao, Pineda laughed and said with his signature ear to ear smile, “He does—he’s fighting for his life—I’m fighting for the music!”

Pineda choked up onstage during the post-screening Q&A when he reflected about how supportive his band buddies have been (who bowed exaggeratedly to him when he treated the audience to a spontaneous a capella) and credits them for where he is today. “I have always had lot of things on my mind. I was always scared what might’ve happened—maybe tonight, the next night. I had to be strong. But the bottom line is — I did it.”

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