Sundance Review: Kim’s Video Honors a Video Store and Tracks the Collection to Unexpected Places

During my brief time living in New York City in the early 1990s, I resided in a building in the Village, near the NYU campus. Just a couple of blocks from my place was the legendary strip of St. Mark’s Place (in the East Village) that included many a used record store as well as a veritable gold mine for film lovers called Kim’s Video. Th store featured tens of thousands of VHS tapes (I’m old), including a special collection of titles, mostly from Europe and Asia, that were unavailable in the United States. These were undeniably illegal bootlegs, but they were precious cargo, curated by an enigmatic businessman named Youngman Kim. You could find virtually anything there, and Kim’s Video had a devoted and knowledgable staff that could point you down any cinematic avenue of your choosing.

I lost track of Kim’s Video when I moved away, but they stayed open until 2008, eventually stocking DVDs (and bootleg DVDs) and amassing something in the neighborhood of 55,000 rental titles. Film lovers, makers, and casual fans all rented from the store regularly (the Coen Brothers notoriously racked up several hundred dollars in late fees), but facing a shifting and evolving industry, Mr. Kim eventually decided to sell or donate his collection to a worthy host. The documentary Kim’s Video tells the story of Mr. Kim, his business, and where the collection landed. I’m rarely a fan of filmmakers inserting themselves into their movies, but co-director David Redmon (who helms with Ashley Sabin) was a frequent Kim’s Video customer and credits the store with the bulk of his film education. He tracks the collection to the small Italian village of Salemi and before long, the story involves the mafia, corrupt politicians, a shady storage facility, and ends with a one-of-a-kind heist. To say anymore would be to ruin a truly unique documentary experience.

The film is playful, often quite funny, heartbreaking, sometimes tense, but ultimately it becomes a celebration of the man who pulled together this collection and the wonders of the collection itself. Redmon uses film clips from many of the titles he rented from Kim’s Video as a means of illustrating his thought process and to show us how his entire life is frequently filtered through the lens of cinema, making it something of a cross between a loose film essay and a wonderful work of investigative journalism, and it’s the filmmaker’s relentless pursuit of this collection that is the driving force of Kim’s Video. Perhaps not the best made film I saw at Sundance this year, but certainly one I had a great deal of fun watching.

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Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

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