“Kim’s Video”

Great story, okay movie. That sums up my feelings on “Kim’s Video,” a documentary from directors David Redmon and Ashley Sabin. Everything about this project feels mediocre, from the second-rate filmmaking to the annoyance of a cinema geek co-director who painfully inserts himself into most of the movie.

The legendary Kim’s Video was a haunt for cinephiles in New York City. For over two decades, the store operated as a rental operation for a stash of rare and obscure cinematic treasures. The documentary tells the story of the young Korean immigrant who opened the video store, spent years cultivating scarce titles, and was eventually the target of an FBI raid because of the number of bootlegs on his shelves. In 2008, Mr. Kim offered to give away his collection of 55,000 films with a few conditions. One, the entire movie library had to stay intact and two, it had to be freely accessible to his former patrons and members. Seeing this as a way to build tourism, the small village of Salemi, Sicily became guardians of the archive. The movies were sent to Italy and faded into obscurity. A lot was promised, but eventually Mr. Kim’s collection was forgotten. So what happened to all the VHS tapes?

Redmon attempts to get answers by traveling to Italy and asking a lot of questions. When he arrives in the country, all he finds are a bunch of lies. It seems nobody in the small town knows anything, nobody has ever heard of Mr. Kim, and nobody speaks any English. It is suspicious, so he continues pushing. Eventually he breaks into a neglected building that was supposed to house the films and finds the VHS tapes and finds they have been improperly stored, poorly maintained, and neglected for so long that many are ruined from water damage.

A good documentarian always follows the story, and despite Redmon and Sabin’s lack of skill as directors, the pair allow the stranger-than-fiction narrative dictate the direction of their film. What starts out as a straightforward investigation turns into a tale of myths, suspicious deaths, and an entanglement with the mafia that exposes the power and corruption uncovered in a foreign country.

All of this sounds like a wild ride, but it’s relatively tame (considering). The remainder of the documentary shows the efforts of the film crew to get Mr. Kim’s movie collection returned to NYC, turning into a crazy heist story that’s outrageous and 100% true.

It’s clear that Sabin and Redmon are true film nerds, especially when they tell their story through movie references. It’s fun, but there’s something about the voiceover narration that’s irritating and overdone. This isn’t a well-made documentary, and I can’t help but wonder how much better this film would’ve been in the hands of a more skilled filmmaker.

“Kim’s Video” works as an ode to those old video stores with shelves of VHS tapes stacked to the ceiling. The film left me with the sad realization that younger generations will never know the joy of browsing movies and the thrill of finding that one obscure title you’ve been searching for decades to find. If you fondly remember places like that, the documentary provides a significant dopamine hit from the burst of nostalgia alone.

By: Louisa Moore

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