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The Independent Critic

Javier Pena, Melissa Congas, Sam Percussion, Spirit of Goodwill
Mark Moorman, James Bigham, Javier Pena
89 Mins.

 "For Once In My Life" Review 
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A story about the greatness within each of us...

The Spirit of Goodwill Band, led by Javier Pena, features 29 members with varying degrees of mental and physical disability including Autism, Down's Syndrome, Blindness and others.

The story around which For Once In My Life is built is an invitation from Miami Mayor Manny Diaz for the group to perform at the 2008 U.S. Mayor's Convention, an event to be in front of 1,000+. Similar in spirit and style to Young@Heart, a doc from a couple years back about a choir of senior adults who tackle contemporary music, For Once In My Life intertwines the very real challenges of its subjects, from health to environmental to family and more, and incorporates it into their heartfelt efforts to accomplish this moment of greatness.

The majority of those in The Spirit of Goodwill band had no prior performing or musical history when they joined the band, those who did have experience with a musical instrument had still never been in a band. In addition to managing their daily lives, they will have to learn how to play, sing or perform while also learning how to work together and play together as a band.

If ever there has been a call, and an inspiring one at that, for the integration of individuals with disabilities into everyday society, For Once In My Life is such a call. When the group's musical director decides to incorporate a challenging song into their act, Gloria Estefan's "Conga," it's hard not to wonder if this band that occasionally seems mismatched can really blend well enough together to pull it off. Watching the film and, most assuredly, watching the group's performance is sure to elicit laughs, cheers, smiles and a few tears along the way.

For Once In My Life was an official selection of the 2010 Heartland Film Festival and captured the festival's Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature, not even remotely surprising considering the film fits perfectly with Heartland's dedication to promoting films that inspire and promote the power of the human spirit.

While the film is still on the film festival circuit, it wouldn't be surprising to see the film end up with a limited nationwide run similar to that of Young@Heart.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic