Sometimes truth is definitely stranger than fiction. Take the story of Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singing prodigy who at age forty was plucked from total obscurity in his native Manila and recruited to join his all-time favorite band Journey. His rags to riches fairy tale is the subject of DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’: EVERYMAN’S JOURNEY by director Ramona Diaz, a rollicking rockumentary that opens the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival this evening. It is the kind of tale that inspires hope that one can truly rise above one’s experiences and fulfill one’s dreams (even though there is an incredible amount of luck and good fortune involved).
Pineda’s hardscrabble climb is a poignant one. The son of tailors, he grappled with poverty throughout his life; including homelessness when his mother died of heart disease. The same year that the rock band journey hit its height with the anthemic song Don’t Stop Believin’, the 14 year old Pineda was singing on the street for change. Over the next two decades, he was at the helm of various cover bands in the Phillipines, who recreated the hits of such 1980s mega-groups as Journey, Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. He emulated his idol, Journey lead singer Steven Perry, one of the most distinctive voices in rock and roll. When Perry left the super-group in 2007, Pineda’s music video on YouTube was fatefully seen by Journey founder/guitarist Neal Schon. The rest, as they say, is history.
Pineda was invited to San Francisco for tryouts to sing on the newest Journey record. While visually he did not quite mesh into the rest of the band, his voice was a standout, and almost immediately, he was hired for the gig. An extensive international tour followed and Pineda gradually emerged from shaky newcomer to certified rock god. The film chronicles his rise to stardom, replete with uncertainties about how he would be received and insecurity about his talents. To be sure, it couldn’t have been easy to triumph over lifelong Journey fans’ scrutiny but his obvious vocal strengths carried the day and he is now one of the key reasons behind the band’s renaissance. The film is a heartfelt, entertaining story that shows that rock n roll is not only about on-stage swagger. To view a trailer and learn more, visit: http://www.everymansjourney.com