THE STORY – For two decades, New York City cinephiles had access to a treasure trove of rare and esoteric films through Kim’s Video. Originally run by the enigmatic Kim Yong-man out of his dry-cleaning business, his franchise eventually amassed 55,000 rental titles. In 2008, facing a changing industry, Mr. Kim offered to give away his collection provided that it stayed intact and remained available to Kim’s Video members. In a bid to revitalize tourism, the small Italian village of Salemi, Sicily, became home to the archive. But after the initial publicity faded, so too did any sign of the collection. Enter filmmaker David Redmon, who credits Kim’s Video for his film education. With the ghosts of cinema past leading his way, Redmon embarks on a seemingly quixotic quest to track down what happened to the legendary collection and to free it from purgatory.
THE CAST – Isabel Gillies, Robert Greene & Eric Hynes
THE TEAM – David Redmon & Ashley Sabin (Directors/Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 99 Minutes
Attention film dorks: “Kim’s Video” is the documentary for you. Obviously, please keep reading, but if you’re the kind of person who eagerly awaited the recent Sight and Sound list or has a ranking of favorite TCM hosts, you will certainly be enchanted by this zany, fun, and sometimes unbelievable documentary. It is the kind of non-fiction film that uncovers such shocking and ridiculous things that it’s easy to question its truthfulness, making it all the more entertaining.
The video rental store that lends the film its title was an established spot for New York cinephiles in the 80s and 90s before closing in 2008. It was home to an unfathomably extensive collection of movies from all over the world, including underground, imported, and bootleg films. Upon its closure, the owner, Kim Yong-man, unexpectedly decided to donate his entire collection to the town of Salemi in Sicily. The Italian village pitched the idea to Kim in hopes of becoming a flourishing artistic community. In pursuit of finding the since-lost collection, filmmaker David Redmon follows as many clues as possible, with surprising discoveries at every turn.
Co-director Redmon is a constant presence in this documentary, even if he’s never actually on-screen. But he’s constantly behind the camera, interacting with those captured by his lens, and is a seemingly constant narrator. Much of this post-filming commentary consists of references to films both populist and obscure. The constant callbacks and namedrops can get a bit exhausting, but it eventually ties into his grand thesis about how art burrows into every inch of those who love the medium.
As Redmon delves deeper and deeper into the mystery of the fate of Kim’s Video collection, he introduces the audience to a memorable cast of characters of varying personalities, ranging from absurdly comical to genuinely menacing. He and co-director Ashley Sabin do an excellent job at getting viewers to know and recognize every new face that pops up so that they can all eventually be referred to in shorthand with complete audience understanding. A filmmaker couldn’t have invented a more watchable or colorful ensemble for a fictional film.
Redmon’s quest to rescue the treasure trove of both high-brow and literally pornographic films is a practically Fitzcarraldo-esque (Redmon would appreciate that reference) effort that’s a total blast to follow. And underneath all the fun lies a heartfelt ode to the passion that art inspires and how it can cause those who build their lives around its creation and appreciation to do unspeakably wild things to assure its continued existence.