Kim’s Video

The motivation behind the film-savvy doc Kim’s Video reminded me of that customer who wouldn’t rewind their videocassette after returning it to the store they rented it from – they want to pass down the fun but, somehow, they’ve still made the experience all about themselves.  David Redmon, one-half of this documentary’s directorial duo, is that customer.

With Kim’s Video, Redmon has found several subjects that are interests for him: movies, the lost culture of video stores, and the legacy of retail manager/film aficionado Yongman Kim.  Kim, notably known for his long-standing video store Kim’s Video formally located in New York City’s lower east side, was determined to expose every corner of film history to a demographic who were just as passionate for films as he was;  even if that meant putting his store, his finances, and his reputation on the line.  From mainstream cinema to bootlegged gems, Kim’s Video had it all.

When it was time for Youngman Kim to consider closing his iconic location, he also wanted his collection of 55,000 titles to be preserved.  An initiative in Salemi, Sicily was interested and, after some negotiations which included accommodations for anyone with a Kim’s Video membership, Kim’s collection was relocated to Italy.  When Redmon hopped on a plane to Salemi, wanting to take advantage of membership perks and reacquaint himself with Kim’s legendary collection, he was shocked and dumbfounded by his discoveries – giving his doc a new sort of purpose.

Kim’s Video has aspirations to be a love letter to physical media and the importance of art preservation but, unfortunately, Redmon can’t get out of his own way and co-director Ashley Sabin (Do Donkeys Act?) seems to enable her creative partner’s obsessive behaviour.  I appreciate Redmon’s enthusiasm, especially as a fellow DVD/Blu-ray nut.  However, whether he’s comparing conflicts in his doc to older films, using a type of paparazzi style to interview people on the fly, inserting himself in Youngman Kim’s story or shoehorning a climactic (and rather pretentious) stunt, the filmmaker is constantly influencing his own documentary and tainting his integrity.

The strengths of this production exist in those core memories from people who experienced the original Kim’s Video – Redmon included.  Even though this project may only speak to viewers who have an affection for renting and buying movies, there isn’t a shortage of fascinating history.  The production also knows how to tie the store’s community together.  From intimate chats with Youngman Kim to interviews with former employees discussing Kim’s enigmatic personality to nostalgic excitement from customers-turn-filmmakers like David Wain (Wet Hot American SummerA Futile and Stupid Gesture) and Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up PhilipHer Smell) – it’s a pleasure to reminisce.  I would’ve rather have delved into the excellent adventure of Kim’s Video and its patrons than tagging along with the bogus journey in Kim’s Video.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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