Sundance 2023: Theater Camp, Video by Kim | Festivals and Awards

“Theater Camp” is well-organized, so when it starts dropping its premise of “kids in the theater, haha,” it gives us the oddly bad “Joan, Still, ” with songs written by Gordon, Lieberman, Platt, Galvin, and Mark Solernick. Like “Theater Camp,” it’s likely to hold auditions, car rides, dorm rooms, and, yes, theater camps for years to come.

David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s documentary “Video by Kim,” which preceded the NEXT section of the festival, related to the adventures of co-director Redmon and a trove of VHS tapes and DVDs that once belonged to franchise owner Yongman Kim at Kim’s Video store in New York City. Thousands of tapes make up the collection, and for unabashed movie buffs like David (who begins this doc by talking about how much he loves movies), the rarities, bootlegs, and resources made his cinephilia deeper. Including store clerks Alex Ross Perry and cinematographer Sean Price Williams (both interviewed); the Coen brothers have 600 dollars in late fees. And one day, through a strange course of events that is most revealed in this movie itself, the tapes end up in the small town of Salemi in Italy after Mr. Kim will give the crowd at the closing shop to the candidate he sees as the most worthy.

After many false starts – is this documentary about David’s loving movies? Or experiences working in the holy video store? Or Yongman Kim’s background as an immigrant who loves movies and knows Quentin Tarantino?—“Kim’s Video” finally decided on its goal to get David the tapes from Italy. Through some trick that the movie is dressed as cute, he saw the locked archives and the bad conditions of the tapes and DVDs.

For any narrative focus that this movie sorely lacks while trying to sell itself, it allows the passion about this collection to become the main spectacle. David’s mission was a multi-year odyssey that included multiple trips back and forth to Salemi and getting close to the heads of the Italian honchos involved in the strange deal. And in pursuit of “stranger than fiction” kudos as a reason for this project to be in feature-length, it throws some nerves about the experience. A few beats about his concern to disturb the mafia: “I don’t want to be in a Scorsese movie,” David’s voiceover says during a scene.

While talking about his experience, David’s voiceover sometimes says, “I feel [character name] on [movie],” accompanied by clips of what he explained (“Blue Velvet,” “Videodrome,” “Poltergeist,” etc.) There is little wisdom to be found, just eyerolls. One can appreciate the dedication that went into this saga, but the obsession with the movies doesn’t make the a great visual storyteller on its own.

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