August 07, 2019
This collaborative documentary about Surinamese Maroon people mixes ancient storytelling with new forms of film-making
Stones Have Laws review – captivating stories of ancestors, forest gods and modern life
This meditative, heart-slowing documentary gives the directing credit to trio of film-makers from the Netherlands, but the end-titles explain in some detail that the film is essentially a collaboration between the Europeans and the on-screen subjects, all members of the Surinamese Maroon community. The dialogue, spoken by unidentified members of the group, was transcribed during workshops and refashioned into the film’s script. Scenes show the participants recounting these stories, sometimes in the manner of a theatrical chorus, and are interleaved with observational footage that records them going about their daily lives. Elsewhere, there are drone-captured shots and wide-angle ultra-high-definition footage of the stark and beautiful landscape where the community lives.
Descended from African slaves brought to the former Dutch colony of Suriname in South America, this particular group adapted to life in the tropical forest after their ancestors ran away or rebelled against slave owners; those stories of defiance and bravery were passed down to the current generation, who recount some of the tales here. Seemingly animists who believe in forest gods as well as divine spirits that live within the stones and trees surrounding them, this community uses traditional techniques to chop down trees and make canoes but still use chainsaws to get the job done; they also wear a mixture of contemporary, western-style gear and more traditional cloth wrappings.
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