An uplifting case of adults, born with the cards stacked against them, making the most of their lives.

A forthright portrait of a dedicated music teacher and his 29-member band of disabled Goodwill Industries employees in the Miami area, “For Once in My Life” presents an uplifting case of adults, born with the cards stacked against them, making the most of their lives. Proof of music’s therapeutic and creative values, Jim Bigham and Mark Moorman’s pic follows the standard template for this kind of crowd-pleasing docu. As such, it hardly breaks ground but will rouse auds on a solid fest tour.

Goodwill Band topper Javier Pena is seen as a serious musician and bandleader, believing in his ensemble’s abilities to the extent that he doesn’t hesitate to throw the group into the difficult syncopations of Miami Sound Machine’s banner song, “Conga.” This is the show-stopper during the band’s appearance in front of an audience of the nation’s mayors in Miami’s opera house, but the film is all about the journey to the show. En route are mini-portraits of bandmates including Terry Wigfall (a terrific blind lead vocalist), David Benitez (an excellent horn player with cerebral palsy) and troubled autistic brothers Jary and Juan Pulgarin.

For Once in My Life: The Spirit of the Goodwill Band


An Overseas Production Source presentation. Produced by Jim Bigham. Executive producers, Lourdes Little. Directed by Jim Bigham, Mark Moorman.


Camera (color, DV), Moorman; editor, Amy Foote. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, July 30, 2010. (In DocuWeeks; SXSW, Nashville film festivals.) Running time: 90 MIN.


Javier Pena, Terry Wigfall, Melissa Cason, David Benitez, Jary Pulgarin, Juan Pulgarin, Christian Acosta, Sam Collins, Nancy Spagnolo, Godwin Lee, Dennis Pastrana, Manny Diaz, Hector Pulgarin, Clara Montez, Segundo Perez, Ola Jones, Esperanza Benitez, Dolly Collins, Patricia Taylor, Lina Lee, Yanette Novoa, Emilio Estefan. (English, Spanish dialogue)
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