Kim’s Video


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Kim’s Video
"Unashamedly quirky but burtsting with the love of film, this is the sort of one-off doc that’s as much about the engaging playfulness of its construction as it is the content." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

When documentarians go on the hunt for something specific, it’s often a historical artefact or, sometimes, as with Searching For Sugarman, a person. The object of desire in this quirky film from David Redmon and Ashley Sabin is more modern than most - the contents of a once-famous New York video rental store.

Kim’s Video was on St Mark’s Place in the city’s East Village and it was a treasure trove of films, a place where Debbie Does Dallas rubbed cases with 400 Blows. The store, which had begun as a small offshoot of a launderette run by Korean-American businessman Yongman Kim, was home to more than 55,000 movies, many of them bootleg copies which added to their rarity value. Importantly, for the purposes of this film, it was a Mecca for Redmon, whose near-obsessive love for the store is vital to the success of this highly personal doc.

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Of course, we all know what happened to video but, when the fateful day came that Kim decided to close the business he offered to give it away for free, on the proviso that it would remain available for members to rent. What happened next is the first surprising development in a film that is full of them - the collection was given, not to a local library or college but to the small town of Salemi in Sicily.

What starts off as an off-beat quest to go to Italy to rent one of the videos becomes a lot more involved after the directors rock up in Sicily with a camera to discover the collection languishing in boxes in a damp building rather than as part of a showcase that was originally agreed. What has, to that part, been a sort of cute history lesson, intercut with talking heads from former Kim’s Video clerks including Queen Of Earth director Alex Ross Perry and clips from films Redmon is a fan of that illustrate how he feels, suddently turns takes the shape of something more investigative.

There’s a distinct whiff of low-level corruption as it turns out the former mayorturns out to be pals with ex-president Silvio Berlsconi and there’s even the suggestion of mafia involvement. At the same time, the directors also track down the elusive Kim himself in a bid to see what can be done to ‘rescue’ the collection. Redmon, who does most of the talking, is sweetly earnest in his approach even if the pair are almost deliberately ill-equiped to investigate anything - even going so far as to arrive without an interpreter in the first instance.To say too much more about what happens next in this documentary, would be to spoil the fun, but what the directors decide to do is more certainly the stuff of movies.

Unashamedly quirky but burtsting with the love of film, this is the sort of one-off doc that’s as much about the engaging playfulness of its construction as it is the content.

Reviewed on: 25 Jan 2023
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Kim’s Video packshot
Playing with the forms and tropes of various cinema genres, the filmmaker sets off on a quest to find a legendary lost video collection of 55,000 movies in Sicily.

Director: David Redmon, Ashley Sabin

Year: 2023

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: US

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