Even if the name “Ben Fong-Torres” doesn’t ring a bell, you’ve probably read his work. Soon after graduating from San Francisco State College, he started writing for Rolling Stone in 1968. The next year, he was hired as an editor and writer. Fong-Torres’s cover stories on Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, and Jefferson Airplane helped to shape the way a country understood its counterculture, while Rolling Stone, under Fong-Torres’s guidance as a senior editor, became Rolling Stone.
Suzanne Joe Kai’s documentary is much more than a time capsule of an era: it’s a portrait of someone who can’t be reduced to a profession. Fong-Torres walks us through his upbringing as the child of Chinese immigrants in the 1950s, his earliest interest in rock and soul as a way of belonging, and the remarkable career that followed. Through conversations with colleagues and friends like Annie Leibovitz, Cameron Crowe, and Steve Martin, as well as authentic recordings from Fong-Torres’s archives—including Elton John—we understand why Fong-Torres was the interviewer that most bands actually requested: he treated each musician with a deep admiration for their craft, and saw them as people rather than icons.
Suzanne Joe Kai received two Emmy® Award nominations and was named Best Woman News Reporter while a broadcast journalist at San Francisco’s NBC affiliate KRON-TV. She worked at KCBS Radio (CBS) and television stations KTVU (FOX), KGO (ABC), KGUN (ABC), and RottenTomatoes.com. Kai holds a master's in documentary film from Stanford University.