By Jerry Del Priore
Etched in Stone: Stone Story Documentary Goes Beyond the Hippie Way of Life
By Jerry Del Priore
More than another movie about the hippie experience, the Stone Story documentary, directed and edited by Jean-André Fourestié, tells the story of Martin Stone and his family—from his turbulent days in the seventies as a peace-loving individual to the present. Intertwined is the complex Stone family emotional-charged dynamics as they navigate the pothole-filled terrain of life through the years, while the elder Stones searches for his utopia existence.
Winter Film Awards Jerry Del Priore sat down with Montreal-based Jean-André Fourestié to discuss his work. See the US Premiere of ‘Stone Story’ at Cinema Village on Sunday February 26 as part of the Winter Film Awards Indie Film Festival.
Q: How long have you been a filmmaker? I have been a filmmaker since a good 10 years now. My first three documentaries were short or medium length and auto-produced; Stone Story is my first feature-length documentary.
I also work as an editor. It is actually my every day job. From 2007 to 2010, I was a director-editor for TV5 Québec, Canada. I’m currently a freelance editor for television projects and independent productions.
Q: How long did it take to film? It took me four years to do it. Three years of shooting in between Montreal and Philadelphia at different moments and one year of postproduction: editing, colorization, sound design, mix, music, subtitles and all the rest.
Q: What about the Stone family drew you to make a film about them? The idea for Stone Story grew out of my meeting with Martin, the film’s main character, some ten years ago, when I, as a newcomer to Montreal, became one of his flatmates for a time.
I wanted to share his experience because I felt his story was both absolutely unique and also universal. The hippie experience is not the heart of the story but it does give it the color of those times. So, I began to think about the choices we make in life and their impact not only on ourselves but on those around us who may suffer the consequences. The film is also about families, about fathers, about the passing of time and above all, the quest for freedom.
When I went to meet Martin Stone’s daughters in Philadelphia, the story took on another dimension. I told them about my project and gradually they let me a little into their daily lives. My idea was to echo the points of view of the whole family without ever being judgmental. I wanted the film to be as honest as possible. The family is a complex, flexible unit that functions like a magnet: attraction and repulsion. I think it is very difficult to judge your family or their life choices. All you can do is try to understand. That is what I have attempted to do in this film, with some perspective.
Q: How is this more than a hippie film? The hippie experience is not the heart of the story but it does give it the color of those times. The hippie generation still resonates today with its search for utopia, for new ideals, and its disenchantment. But my film is about life above all. It raises questions we all ask ourselves: how should we run our lives? How can we be better in tune with the choices we make? How do we take responsibility for them? And how do we create ourselves a space of freedom in a world that does not necessarily resemble us?
Stone Story is a contemporary, thoughtful, funny, moving, colorful and musical film, and above all, honest.
Q: What was the most difficult part of production? The difficult part of the production was first that we were a very small team; A director of photography, Hervé Baillargeon, a soundman, Bruno Pucella and myself. And we were filming in Montreal and in Philadelphia with seven or eight different people. So, it was quite ambitious. And the idea was to make something very intimate.
I realized from the start that the film would be a human adventure, because of my friendship and closeness with Martin Stone, the protagonist of Stone Story. But everyone had to feel at ease while we were filming, but also when we were not filming. So, I needed to surround myself with people I could feel good and have a laugh with.
In fact, I wanted them to be able to fit into Martin’s family, simply and naturally, as I did 12 years ago. Then I had to always make sure that all the characters of the documentary will stay on board with us during the whole time of the shooting. This means a lot of human relationship, trust, patience, respect, love and listening, because it is incredibly generous of them. I don’t know if they realized it from the start but they opened their door not for three or four meetings, but for three or four years. So, those were the challenges on this production. Distance between places to film, being patient and listening to all the characters and my team. But also staying true to the original idea.
Q: Why was it important to make this movie? It was very important to make this movie because this movie is dealing with a lot of my obsessions and questioning. Families, about fathers, about the passing of time and above all, the quest for freedom. I found the characters and the subject fascinating. These ordinary people experienced extraordinary things. Rather than make them into extraordinary people, the idea was to render their humanity.
I wanted to open some doors and try to show that there are many different ways to live your life; it is all a matter of perspective and the way you want to see it. But at the end, you always can change and try to get a little bit closer to where you thing you should be.
Q: What was difficult about directing and editing this film? As the editor of his film, I see editing as an opportunity, not as an additional difficulty, as is sometimes the case. I put myself back into the skin of an editor, and adapted to myself what I usually do when I edit for another director. It was a little schizophrenic, but I did it!
I set out to gain perspective on the film during the editing phase. I made some sacrifices that were necessary to make a better film. It was his only priority. Colleagues were also precious allies. The film crew, editor friends have been very helpful, industry professionals who took part in screenings, and of course, my tireless producer Ian Oliveri—all raised questions and contributed valuable suggestions. And one very important thing, you have to be able to put aside your ego.
Q: What are the biggest takeaways people will get from the movie? I put some quotes of different reviews from newspapers and magazine. I figured they were the best to answer to this question.
“The film makes no judgements about the lives led by Martin Stone or his family. It doesn’t demonize anyone. It presents individuals with intersecting lives, who are trying to carve out a niche in a world that doesn’t necessarily correspond to everyone’s values. With honesty and humor, the Stones share their fairly objective and sometimes painful memories, as well as the echoes of the past still found in their present-day lives. This is a touching, worthwhile portrait that makes us think about our own choices and how they have shaped our path through life.” – Véronique Bonacorsi – Fragments urbains.
“The documentary Stone Story […] takes a fascinating look at the art of making unorthodox life choices, especially as a parent.” – Silvia Galipeau – La Presse.
“The film is not focused solely on its protagonist: it includes a dialogue with his children and his ex-wife, putting their points of view in perspective and giving us a clearer view of the big picture. It is a structure reminiscent of the ensemble film, forcing the hero to confront his choices, but without judgment.” Martin Gignac- Le Journal Metro.
“Benefitting from the luminous cinematography of Hervé Baillargeon and mesmerizing music by Freeworm, Stone Story is about freedom, the choices we make, and the risks that can arise from those choices.” Martin Gignac- Le journal Metro.
“With his ‘halftone’ approach, Fourestié reveals the extent to which shadow zones are always balanced by bright sunlight.” – Luc Laporte-Rainville – Ciné-Bulles.