Kim's Video

During the era of video stores, there were a small handful in major cities that film buffs all across the country knew about. They achieved a reputation for coolness. Video Archives, where a young man named Quentin Tarantino once worked, was the hip West Coast store. On the East Coast, it was Kim’s Video in New York. More than just a place to rent tapes and DVDs, Kim’s was practically a film school unto itself. Then the weirdest thing happened, which is what fuels the aptly titled documentary Kim’s Video.

Directors David Redmond and Ashley Sabin start off with a little history. Owned by enigmatic businessman Yongman Kim, the store had tens of thousands of titles, many of them obscure or hard to find. The place even carried bootlegs because the prevailing wisdom was that people deserved to have access to any form of cinema they wanted. For that reason, the customers, including filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, were incredibly loyal. The film paints such an appealing portrait that you’ll wish you could hop in a time machine and go there.

As streaming became dominant, Kim had to close the store. A deal was made with the small town of Salemi, Italy. They promised to house and care for the collection, with the guarantee that anyone with a Kim’s Video card could come at any time to check out a film. This is where the documentary reveals its true focus. Redmond travels to Salemi and is stunned to find that the tapes are not only unavailable to the public, they’re also being stored in substandard conditions.

Kim’s Video follows Redmond as he tries to save the collection. That involves dealing with some shady public figures in Salemi, recruiting Youngman Kim’s help, and launching an Argo-worthy rescue mission. Fascinating twists and turns occur along the way. At the heart of the mystery is a fundamental question: Why did Salemi take the collection if they had no intention of doing anything with it? Redmond’s investigation keeps you riveted, even if he leans too much on narration along the lines of, “I felt like [character] in [famous movie]” as he describes his feeling about each new revelation.

The tale of what happened to this store and its movies is pretty crazy. Kim’s Video is packed with drama, mystery, and humor. In the end, though, it’s about much more than a single business. The documentary touches on the passion people have for cinema and our collective need to protect it. That’s an idea any film buff will respond to.

out of four

Kim's Video is unrated, but contains some strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan