Review by Sean Boelman
Documentary subjects can be found in the most unlikely of places, including a little village in Italy that was home to one of the most extensive video collections in history. David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s documentary Kim’s Video takes audiences along for a wild ride as Redmon explores a bizarre, niche corner of cinematic history.
The film tells the story of the legendary video collection of one-time New York City mainstay Kim’s Video, as the documentarian sets out to discover what happened to the 55,000 movies that went missing when they were donated to the small Sicilian village of Salemi. It’s a globe-trotting adventure, a heist movie, and an ode to cinema all in one, and it’s surprisingly effective despite what one imagines to be an overstuffed premise.
Compared to most documentaries that play the festival circuit, Kim’s Video is enjoyably lighthearted. Of course, there is a much darker undercurrent pulsing beneath the surface involving government corruption, but David Redmon and Ashley Sabin approach this stranger-than-fiction story with a good sense of humor.
On its surface, the movie puts up this guise of this wacky mystery of red tape and video piracy, but there’s a much more poignant ode to the preservation of the arts beneath it. Sure, Redmon and Yongman Kim’s methods are nothing short of unorthodox, but they both have such a clear love for the cinema that it is infectious.
That being said, the film does suffer from a bit of an identity crisis at times. Kim is depicted as this pseudo-mysterious figure for much of the first hour of the movie, but this shroud of mystery is suddenly lifted when he begins to play a more active role in the story. And it feels like Redmon and Sabin are content with caricaturing the politicians involved rather than actually exploring what got them to that point.
For the most part, the form of the movie is rather straightforward. Redmon approaches this in a gonzo sort of way, taking the reins in the investigation. He has a pretty entertaining personality that lends itself nicely to the voiceover, but for a film in the NEXT category at Sundance, one almost expects something a bit more technically edgy.
However, there are some portions of the movie which are heavily inspired by some classic films of the VHS era — and a few more recent ones — and it would have been nice to see even more done with this style. The third act takes an absolutely bizarre twist, and Redmon and Sabin’s style adjusts to reflect this.
Kim’s Video is an enormously entertaining documentary and will prove especially compelling for cinephiles. In a festival that is full of weighty, emotional documentaries, it’s nice to see something like this that’s uplifting and an all-around good time.
Kim’s Video is playing at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, which runs January 19-29 in-person in Park City, UT and January 24-29 online.