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Kim's Video

“Kim’s Video” reaches so hard for quirky profundity that it falls on its face. It’s a real shame because there’s an interesting story buried in this frustrating film. From the ‘80s to when it closed in the ‘00s, Kim’s Video was a vital force for the love of independent cinema. It curated a culture that valued art above everything else, including whether or not some of the VHS tapes they were renting were 100% legal. Personally, my working at video stores in the ‘80s and ‘90s cultivated my love for the form, and I regret the fact that my kids can’t walk the aisles of a place like Kim’s Video, stumbling onto something that might change their life. And it’s fascinating how many former employees of Kim’s are artists now, including the great Robert Greene (“Procession”), Sean Price Williams (“The Sweet East”), and Alex Ross Perry (“Listen Up Philip”), all interviewed in this doc. Where will young directors get the kind of on-job education they did in video stores?

All of this is fertile ground for a film like “Kim’s Video,” but co-director David Redmon (who is credited alongside Ashley Sabin) can’t find the story he wants to tell. It feels like the idea was to approach a counter-culture mecca like Kim’s Video with a counter-culture style—there’s a reason this was in the NEXT program at Sundance instead of one of the doc ones—but the constant returning to David’s story instead of the store or even founder Yong-man Kim is infuriating. Redmon narrates ALL of “Kim’s Video” as it unfolds, often interjecting film clips that he thinks amplifies his point but feel like the most basic Film 101 choices that only serve to exaggerate what’s happening to him. He didn’t find an ear in a field like “Blue Velvet”. He is not like the characters in “Blow Out” or “The Conversation.” Lord help me, he did not do an “Argo.”

So what did David Redmon do? Here’s where “Kim’s Video” gets weird. What starts as a document of an organization becomes obsessed with what happened after it closed instead of the impact it had when it was open. In 2008, Kim announced that Mondo Kim’s would close and that he would sell the collection, ending up working a deal with the city of Salemi in Sicily, a place that was trying to rebuild a reputation as an artist’s community after being devastated by an earthquake. Promising great things for the collection, Kim agreed, only for it to be basically buried out of sight and used as capital for other art projects but not displayed in any way.

Redmon gets it in his head to “rescue” the collection, traveling to Salemi multiple times to interview politicians and other key figures, washing all of it in the broadest Italian stereotypes one could imagine. He doesn’t just pull out the Scorsese clips, he claims in is narration to be frightened as someone he’s following stops under a bridge, saying, “We’re under a highway—this is where people go to get murdered.” And then nothing happens.

Almost everything that happens in Salemi feels forced into Redmon and Sabin’s filmmaking vision instead of what actually goes down or might be interesting. It’s as if they set out to make a film like what they loved at Kim’s Video and then forced all the square pegs into the round holes in an effort to make that happen. The approach leads to clunky pacing and obfuscation of the real story here. Yes, Kim’s Video was important, and saving its archive is important, but a better film would pull back from the over-played experiences of the person making it to tell the whole story instead bouncing all over the place and injecting clips that serve no purpose other than to call attention to the filmmaker’s alleged knowledge base. Kim’s Video created thousands of film fans, and even a few filmmakers—the film with the same name loses the macro story of why this place mattered in the micro one of the person trying to tell it.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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