(Opened in limited release on March 8, 2013.)
Ramona Diaz’s latest documentary Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey chronicles Arnel Pineda’s rise from unknown talent in the Philippines to lead singer of Journey – the classic underdog story she couldn’t believe no one else wanted to make.
by Ada Tseng
In the opening shots of Ramona Diaz’s documentary, Arnel Pineda is returning to the Philippines in 2008 for the first time after performing a successful tour with one of the biggest bands in the United States. After being greeted with much fanfare at the airport and meeting Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the president of the Philippines at the time, Pineda decides he wants to visit his elementary school, down the street from his old house. As Pineda walks over, a crowd of children start following him, and he happily poses for photos. But when he meets the principal in her office, she is stiff and unimpressed.
What’s the name of your band?
Journey, Arnel Pineda replies, politely.
What’s your name again?
“I always knew that was the opening,” says director Ramona Diaz, laughing at the oblivious principal who is not sure why her day is being interrupted. “I was like, ‘Arnel, why do you want to go to school? You were never a school guy. You never even graduated.’ But he wanted to see the kids there, so I said, ‘OK. We’ll do whatever you want.'”
A year earlier, in December of 2007, Journey announced that they had found a new lead singer. As legend has it, Arnel Pineda was discovered after Neal Schon saw a YouTube video of Pineda performing a cover of “Faithfully” with his band The Zoo.
At the time, Journey band members Schon, Jonathan Cain, Deen Castronovo, and Ross Valory were itching to go on tour again, but they didn’t have a lead singer. It was just months after the 2007 series finale of The Sopranos ended with “Don’t Stop Believin'” playing in the background, reminding America of the hit-making rock band who reached their height of success in the ‘80s but has never quite gone away because of beloved Soft Rock radio stations across the country. It had been a decade since Steve Perry, the quintessential voice of Journey, left the band. Two replacement lead singers, Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Soto, had come and gone. The band was close to giving up, until Neal heard Pineda’s voice online and convinced his bandmates to fly this unknown Filipino singer out for an audition.