TORONTO - The journey of Arnel Pineda from a YouTube unknown to lead singer of the internationally-adored American band "Journey" is documented in a film that showcases the story behind the glitter.
The documentary "Don't Stop Believin': Every Man's Journey," helmed by award-winning director Ramona Diaz, won the Samsung Audience Choice Award at the recent 17th Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival.
"The minute I heard a Filipino guy was recruited from the Philippines, and wasn't even famous in the Philippines, to be the lead singer of Journey, a very iconic band, I knew there was a story," Diaz said.
Diaz traces Pineda's discovery by lead guitarist Neil Schonn and the initial challenges they had in finding the "golden voice."
The movie chronicles Pineda for two years with the band -- from rehearsals to the world tour.
It provides a realistic glimpse into Pineda's life - his challenges, memorable and funny moments, immense pressure to lead the band and his humble awakening to fame and fan adulation.
"I think he is what we call in the business, you know, documentary gold, because he is very open about his life. He was very aware of what was happening in his life and he could articulate it. The camera loves Arnel. It's a combination of his story with Journey," said Diaz.
Despite challenges in funding and filming every event on and off stage, Diaz lauds the band's American members.
"There was a lot of negotiating back and forth but I must say we all did it with a handshake. Because they said 'We're handshake men. We don't do contracts.' Ii said, 'Really?' So it was leap of faith but they came true and they really delivered for us," she said.
Even with international fame, Pineda has kept a level head.
"Why me? I'm not even cute. I'm short. I'm so Asian which like, kung i-pipicture mo, my God! Para akong in-edit you know. It's like nilagay lang ako. In-adobe photoshop lang ako. O see? Kasama ko ang Journey," he said in a clip from the film.
With his Journey bandmates and manager, Livenation and the creative artists agency's support, $350,000 was donated to kababayans affected by super typhoon Yolanda.
A 2014 tour kicks off this spring in the US for Journey with the Steve Miller band and the Tower of Power.