Fantastic Fest Review: Kim’s Video

Fascinating story of the NYC movie mecca gets lost in other films

Most of the way through Kim’s Video, the documentary following the saga of the iconic New York City video store, filmmaker David Redmon says that films are like “our collective memory.” That's a fair reason for his obsession with the collection and making sure it became accessible again.

This might be a great thesis statement for Redmon’s film, except that it is said more or less the same way over and over again. Clearly, this documentary showcases filmmakers Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s love for film and physical media specifically, but it can turn an otherwise interesting and compelling documentary into a rote repetition of the same points and style.

In 2009, the Kim's Video collection of 55,000 films was moved from New York to Salemi, a town in Sicily that promised to act as stewards of the invaluable treasure. Salemi made a lot of promises: that they would not only protect and preserve the movies, but digitize them, make them free to anyone who had a Kim’s Video membership and visited, and even create a “never ending” film fest, screening a different movie from the collection every day indefinitely. However, this promise ended up falling flat, leaving many former members and patrons to wonder, “What really happened to those tapes?”

It’s a question that haunts Redmon, and he and Sabin use this film to try and answer it while also resurrecting the old Kim’s Video by interviewing filmmakers, past employees, and even owner and founder Yong-man Kim himself. It’s all standard and mostly enjoyable documentary fare, and Redmon uses a device where he references films directly (“I felt like Jeffrey in Blue Velvet"). While understandable to a point, by the time a misused Videodrome reference comes around, it feels like this stylistic choice has overstayed its welcome. In this way, the movie gets in its own way, leaning on other films instead of forging its own way forward.

It’s a shame too, because Kim’s Video has a lot of interesting ideas floating around its compelling core (there’s a great heist component and some potent ideas about the importance of preserving our cultural heritage correctly, and how without records, like the 55,000 tapes, we lose an important record of our humanity). Its story is wild enough to stand on its own, free of being bogged down by too many reference points.

Kim’s Video is an enjoyable enough documentary when it takes time to dig into the compelling, mysterious, and downright shady mystery it pursues. I wish it would get out of its own way enough to follow the more interesting and unique threads it pulls at here, but it’s too enamored with the movies it’s trying to save to separate them from the story.

Kim's Video

Texas Premiere
Fantastic Fest Screenings
Thu., Sept. 28, 11:05am

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