Journey, the Movie Review

** by Bill Kwan **

Don’t Stop Believin’ – Everyman’s Journey was shown during the “Reel Asian International Film Festival” on 11/09/13 at The Royal Theater. This is a true “Rags to Riches” story of pint size Arnel Pineda who’s gigantic voice propelled him from a third world country of Manila, Philippines to touring, recording and being a member of the Rockband “Journey” The documentary goes back and forth from the Philippines to the world tour in 2008. Discovered on You Tube by founding member and guitarist Neil Schon after singer Steve Augeri had left the band due to problems with his vocal chords.  Schon decided to show the You Tube video(s) to band members: Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory and Deen Castronovo. After some discussions with band members and management, it was decided to bring Arnel Pineda to the USA for an audition. Band members voiced their concerns during the documentary like: “Can he speak English, Coming from a third world country could he adapt, Could he withstand the pressure on tour etc”

Arnel Pineda arrived and they put him through the testing process in the studio. These were his idols and now he was face to face with an iconic band who had a distinctive sound for over 30 years. It all started around 1972-73 when core of the members from the band “Santana” departed to form Journey. On his first day he was very, very nervous. The second day the comfort level was starting to set in.  For the third day of auditions Arnel showed why they brought him to the USA.  They hired him as a full time member of the band.

Journey had gone through multiple singers in the past.  But they are forever known for having the legendary Steve Perry as their frontman and their biggest album in their catalog was Escape.   It was number one around the world and the fans associate Steve Perry as the voice of the band.  Tough shoes to fill for Pineda but he praises Perry in the film and wonders why Journey chooses him for the band. He says” I’m not cute, I’m short and I’m Asian!”   He takes direction from the band, gets some vocal coaching from band member Jonathan Cain and they spruce him up for a rock n’ roll look.  The combination works as we are taken on a world wide tour in 2008.  The crowd seems to accept him.  But you get the few who are die hard Steve Perry fans.  As one of the fans in the parking lot says:” The singer should be from here”  meaning a band member from the USA.  Pineda shows some hate mail to the audience but he takes it in stride and just ignores the hatetred directed towards him.

This is a feel good story of a man who never gave up his dream of being a musician.  Pineda has a heart of gold and is a true family man.  We see his whole family as the band visits the Philippines on their world wind tour. Journey still tours with Pineda and they have an album out with him as the lead vocalist.  It looks like good fit for the band as they found their singer and Journey continues to keep their legacy alive after 30 plus years of making music.

Ramona S. Diaz the director was in the audience and she gave the movie goers an insight on the documentary. How she met Pineda in the customs agency where she worked.  And how the staff didn’t believe that he was applying for a “Green Card” to tour with Journey in the USA.  They had him sing to the whole staff and that was clincher that approved him accreditation to receive his landed immigrant status.   The film took 4 years to make with countless hours of traveling in a van following the tour bus. She said at the end of the day the movie was about Pineda but the band members at times wanted to know why this was edited and why that was edited out.  During the Q+A a movie goer asked “was Steve Perry asked to be interviewed?”  Ramona replied “No, it would have taken the focus away from the film which was Pineda. Plus it wasn’t necessary to interview Perry.  It was mentioned early on not to mention Perry but all the band members would mention Steve Perry so everything worked out”