Arts Desk

Tonight at Silverdocs: Journey!

This year's Silverdocs opens tonight with Don't Stop Believin', a film about Journey and its hurricane-voiced Filipino frontman, Arnel Pineda. But as I noted in my intro to Washington City Paper's package of Silverdocs reviews, it isn't the first documentary about these titans of middle-of-the-road arena rock. Almost two decades ago, the band chronicled its 10th year together in Frontiers and Beyond, which was made by NFL Films and narrated by John Facenda, who describes Journey and its crew with such triumphalist language as “70 modern-day troubadours and roustabouts, crisscrossing the country in seven tractor trailers and three buses, towing the portable pieces of state-of-the-art rock ‘n’ roll theater.” The movie makes much of the fact that then-frontman Steve Perry has grown a mustache. You can't see Frontiers and Beyond at Silverdocs, but you can watch the whole thing right here.

Like Journey in 1983, Silverdocs is celebrating its first decade—and on solid footing, to hear its director, Sky Sitney, tell it. This year's slate features 114 short and feature films, and for the past several years the festival has drawn 27,000 butts to its seats, according to its own numbers. During its first year, 2003, that number was 10,000.

Several years ago, with sponsorships receding, Silverdocs had to get somewhat thrifty (the party spreads got less decadent, basically). Although she won't disclose the festival's budget, Sitney says the festival has now "reached a particular level and no matter what the climate is economically, we can maintain a certain size.”

The hope, Sitney says, is for a Silverdocs that isn’t necessarily expansionist, but instead grows creatively—by booking films that are hybrids of narrative and nonfiction, or expands documentary’s parameters in other ways. The festival’s concurrent conference has begun to emphasize transmedia—work that stretches across platforms. Silverdocs also has a growing evangelist role, Sitney says, a mission to expand the audience for documentary film. That might explain Journey.

Don't Stop Believin' is supposed to be pretty good, by the way—so writes Tricia Olszewski in our Silverdocs package:

Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey opens with the crystal vocals of “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” but at first, it’s impossible to discern whether we’re listening to Steve Perry, the best-known singer of Journey, or his most recent replacement, a Filipino man named Arnel Pineda. Considering Perry’s singular tenor—he’s called “The Voice” for a reason—that’s incredible. So is most of Ramona S. Diaz’s doc, which chronicles how Pineda was plucked from a cover band in Manila to head one of rock’s biggest groups—then do it so well that Journey continues to sell out stadium shows here and abroad. Pineda is a tiny firecracker, seemingly indefatigable onstage and bursting with personality off it, and one can’t sit through the documentary without smiling at him. (Unless, of course, you really, really, really hate Journey. But if you do, why are you watching?)

The film shows tonight at 7 p.m. at the AFI Silver Theatre, and is followed by a discussion moderated by Washington Post pop critic Chris Richards and featuring Journey guitarist Neal Schon, Diaz, producer Capella Fahoome, Sitney, AFI President Bob Gazzale; and Pineda (via Skype).

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  • Lisa in NZ

    Quote - "Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey opens with the crystal vocals of “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” but at first, it’s impossible to discern whether we’re listening to Steve Perry, the best-known singer of Journey, or his most recent replacement, a Filipino man named Arnel Pineda. Considering Perry’s singular tenor—he’s called “The Voice” for a reason—that’s incredible."
    -Unquote

    In my opinion the distinction between Arnel Pineda's singing voice a man with a very distinctive Filipppino accent and Steve Perry's singing voice a man with an American accent who has a Portuguese heritage is very discernible. I'm sure alot of people will totally agree with me.

    Steve Perry IS called The Voice for a reason!!!

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  • Dawn

    I am a Journey and Steve Perry fan and I like many others can absolutely tell the difference between Steve and Arnel. I find it sad that Neil and Jonathan still choose to ride Steve Perry's wave and force Arnel to sing like Steve, than to have the courage to start a new band that reflects the new line up, and write new original material for Arnel to sing like Arnel. I loved that Jonathan's Cain and Neil were in Bad English when Steve needed a break. They can do it. Let go of Journey and Steve Perry copying and come up with something new, and exciting.

  • Ginny

    There IS NO JOURNEY without "The Voice". They can try to imitate him, but there is no substitute for the real thing. To name this Doc "Don't Stop Believin'", a song Steve Perry co-wrote, and have it be his latest wanna be that it's about, to me is unbelievably and a major slap in the face.

    Journey hasn't had a hit since Steve Perry left. They keep playing the same old stuff, they're little more than a cover band. Making this Doc is just going to infuriate the old fans, and we make up the majority of the ticket buying.

    Their glory days are over. They need to come up with new and different material, stuff that Pineda can call his own instead of just trying to imitate Perry and from what I've heard the drummer sings many of the songs as Pineda can't hit the notes.

    I used to be a Journey fan, but without "The Voice" and the way things have gone since his departure, I'll never spend money to see them again. I wouldn't even go see them if it was FREE. Just "Don't Stop Believin'" that someday Steve Perry will give us another album to adore.

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