“Theater Camp” is smartly conceived, so much so that right when it starts to wear down its premise of “theater kids, haha,” it gifts us the magnificently bad “Joan, Still,” with songs written by Gordon, Lieberman, Platt, Galvin, and Mark Solennick. Like “Theater Camp,” it will likely haunt auditions, car rides, dorm rooms, and, yes, theater camps for years to come.
David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s documentary “Kim’s Video,” premiering in the festival’s NEXT section, concerns the adventures of co-director Redmon and a horde of VHS tapes and DVDs that used to belong to franchise owner Yongman Kim of New York City’s Kim’s Video store. Thousands of tapes comprised the collection, and for unabashed movie lovers like David (who begins this doc by talking about just how much he loves movies), the rarities, bootlegs, and resources made his cinephilia even deeper. Store clerks included Alex Ross Perry and cinematographer Sean Price Williams (both interviewed); the Coen brothers had 600 dollars in late fees. And one day, through a strange course of events best revealed by this movie itself, the tapes ended up in the small Italian town of Salemi after Mr. Kim offered to give the closing store’s horde to the candidate he found most worthy.
After many false starts—will this documentary be about David loving movies? Or experiences of working at the hallowed video store? Or Yongman Kim’s background as an immigrant who fell in love with movies and knows Quentin Tarantino?—“Kim’s Video” finally settles on its goal of David getting the tapes out of Italy. Through some sneakiness that the movie coats over as cute, he sees the locked archives and the poor conditions the tapes and DVDs are in. “I have my membership card,” he says, while also playing the dumb tourist card.
For whatever narrative focus this movie gravely lacks while trying to sell itself, it lets obsession about this collection become its main spectacle. David’s mission is a multi-year odyssey that includes a lot of traveling back and forth to Salemi and getting close with the Italian head honchos who were involved with the strange deal. And in chasing “stranger than fiction” kudos as a reason for this project to exist in feature-length, it throws in some nerves about the experience. A few beats are about his worry in upsetting the mafia: “I don’t wanna be in a Scorsese movie,” David’s voiceover says during one scene.
While talking about his experience, David’s voiceover will sometimes say, “I felt like [character name] in [movie],” accompanied by clips of what he’s referencing (“Blue Velvet,” “Videodrome,” “Poltergeist,” etc.) There’s little wisdom to be found, just eyerolls. One can appreciate the dedication that went into this saga, but being obsessed with movies does not make a great visual storyteller alone.