Part personal video essay, part documentary, part creative intervention, Kim's Video charts the rise, the fall and the relocation of a New York video store improbably transplanted into the heart of Mafia country.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Those expecting nostalgic reveries for the death-of-the-VHS-store will be satisfied and surprised by Kim's Video, a documentary about the fate of a legendary New York rental operation improbably transplanted to Sicily in 2008.
Beginning as a personal film essay in the style of Ross McElwee, co-director David Redmon integrates in his own story of cinematic obsession into that of Yongman Kim, a South Korean immigrant, experimental filmmaker and innovative entrepreneur, with a scant regard for copyright laws, whose video rental empire came unstuck in the digital era.
For New Zealand cineastes worried about the fate of Aro Video's physical collection, the tale will be both cautionary and celebratory, incorporating corruption and possible Mafia intrigue, becoming a wider meditation on the relationship between culture, crime and politics. Redmon's and Ashley Sabin's playful use of film clips to illustrate or ironically commentate on the narrative gives way to some faux movie making of their own, the dividing line between fact and fiction becoming deliberately blurred. The enigmatic Kim, tall and charismatic but not always forthcoming and the evasive Vittorio Sgarbi, an art historian-cum-politician with ties to Berlusconi and a shady entourage, make for colourful leading players.
If Kim's immigrant story has shades of the American dream and many a talking head waxes lyrical about the mean streets of a pre-gentrified Lower East Side, Kim's Video ultimately documents a love of cinema that transcends time, place or even commerce. "We felt like we were above the law" says one former clerk, acknowledging the shop's open stocking of bootlegged tapes, "we said film knowledge matters more than ownership of movies". Ironically, the piracy that partially defined the operation led to their demise when practiced en masse. Or so it initially seems. Can happy endings only happen in the movies? — Richard Swainson