Going to a local Best Buy or Target is a frustrating experience for cinephiles in 2023. Aisles once dedicated to DVDs and Blu-Rays have been removed from the stores altogether. Meanwhile, the entertainment industry faces threats from shareholders over poor streaming numbers while removing content from the platforms en masse. Today, holding a physical copy of your favorite movie, animated project, or TV series feels more essential than ever. Perhaps no video collection has felt more vital to the physical media craze than a collection owned by a small family business in New York City. Kim’s Video documents a filmmaker’s journey to find a vital collection of Blu-Rays, DVDs, and videos. As we learn the history of the video store, directors David Redmon and Ashley Sabin stumble upon a story of corruption and deception.
Told from the perspective of Redmon, Kim’s Video begins to document the history of the video store chain. The founder of the chain, Yongman Kim, began renting videos as part of a drive-cleaning business. Within a few decades, he employed some of the industry’s most knowledgeable minds, with seven stores in New York City. However, as streaming hurt the rental business, he was forced to close his shops. Eventually, he struck a deal with the Sicilian town of Salemi to protect the collection. However, when Redmon arrives in Salemi to check out how the films are being preserved, he discovers the setup is far from what was promised.
An absurd tale begins to unravel as Redmon explores the situation. Redmon finds himself working against oppositional forces, most of which seem comical but represent truly malicious forces. Redmon begins to understand that what he thought was a fight for some video tapes may represent something much more. Art, in its most accessible form, is being held hostage by lies and false promises. Worse, no immediate way to remedy the situation feels possible.
In these moments, it’s easy to roll over and do nothing. Redmon and Sabin do the opposite. They begin a full-fledged campaign to find Mr. Kim and potentially save the collection. It becomes its own odyssey and a wildly entertaining one at that. Intertwining archival footage, cinematic classics, and Redmon’s original footage, Kim’s Video builds its momentum with style. Redmon’s asides and cinephilic references may annoy some viewers. Yet Kim’s Video filmmakers appear to have a self-awareness few possess. Simply loving cinema will not save it. Action, on the other hand, may do the trick.
At its core, Kim’s Video is drawn to an idea that is not sensible. Sometimes, the craziest things in life are just that. Yet, like a young Sammy Fabelman, Redmon puts his entire being into chasing an impossible dream. Watching what that does to him as a filmmaker and a person is quite interesting. There’s monomania, and then there’s chasing a collection of videos on the other side of the world. In many ways, Kim’s Video portrays its own director as something of a treasure bandit. In this context, it’s not a bad thing.
In addition to the corruption and malfeasance of the Italian officials, there’s a cavalcade of interesting contributors. Director Alex Ross Perry, Dennis Dermody, and Robert Greene appear as some of the many talking heads. The bench at Kim’s was quite deep, and the array of interviewees brings rebellion and humor to their stories. Redmon and Sabin wisely use these tales to endear non-New Yorkers to the store. Yet it does not take much to win over a cinephile when a collection as large as Kim’s exists.
At the same time, Redmon conveys his love of these stores with nostalgia and humor. There’s a feeling that every moment in his life led to him telling this story. Rather than run from it, Redmon embraces it. Kim’s Video is one of those rare films that immediately endear you to its cause. For a cinephile, this is a must-watch adventure. Even to the unaware, it’s an act of passion that must be seen to be believed.