Video Sleuths Press Rewind in ‘Kim’s Video’

Kim’s Video Review - 2023 Documentary Film by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin

Vague Visages’ Kim’s Video review contains minor spoilers. David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s 2023 documentary features Alex Ross Perry, Isabel Gillies and Robert Greene. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.


The unbelievable fate of one of the world’s largest collections of physical movie media is the subject of Kim’s Video, a fizzy and entertaining nonfiction cocktail mixing essay-like asides on the power of cinephilia with an oddball odyssey involving the Italian Mafia. Directed by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin, the feature premiered as part of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. In some ways, the timing is always right for a consideration of disc and tape as we continue to stumble through an often hellish and always fractured streaming landscape where access to titles can vanish without warning. Kim’s Video reminds viewers that there was something very special about browsing the shelves of shops both large and small.

Given the unpredictable plot twists and the documentary’s blend of narrative approaches that bounce from personal diary to travelogue-infused investigation to meta-heist caper, it is not surprising that a number of early reviews have criticized the filmmakers for failing to make a straight documentary about dry cleaner/video rental magnate Yongman Kim and his legendary New York City outlets. Many viewers, myself included, at first imagined a more traditional biography/history of Kim and Kim’s Video in the vein of Puloma Basu and Robert Hatch-Miller’s Other Music (2019). But once it became apparent that the massive library of VHS and DVD landed, mostly intact, in the small Italian town of Salemi, I was ready to get on board with Redmon and Sabin.

Kim’s Video Review: Related — Know the Cast & Characters: ‘The Snow Girl’

Kim’s Video Review - 2023 Documentary Film by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin

In 2012, a few years after Kim’s video business was shuttered, Karina Longworth wrote an excellent feature for The Village Voice detailing her own visit to Italy in search of the collection. Now, a decade later, the contours of the report mirror a great deal of the Salemi-set sections of Kim’s Video. The idea that Kim’s offer to give away his entire inventory in exchange for an assurance that existing members (who numbered in the tens of thousands) would be able to access the collection is wild enough, but the reality — which Redmon and Sabin consider with the same incredulity as their viewers — turns the film into a rallying cry to liberate the neglected treasure from its moldering prison.

Kim’s Video Review: Related — Soundtracks of Television: ‘Poker Face’

The filmmakers know that Kim, the man, is a vivid subject, even though he only pops in and out of the unfolding drama. They tease his appearance, using comments from a variety of former employees to heighten the mystery with quirky anecdotes and descriptions of Kim’s often intimidating intensity. Whenever Kim shows up, the documentary sparks with energy unmatched by scenes in which relentless narrator Redmon is given the runaround by cartoonishly hapless Italian bureaucrats as he pokes around overseas. The latter category provides comic relief, which plays in contrast to clips from movies (like Blue Velvet [1986] and La Dolce Vita [1960]) that offer context for the host’s movie-obsessed single-mindedness.

Kim’s Video Review: Related — Know the Cast & Characters: ‘You People’

Kim’s Video Review - 2023 Documentary Film by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin

For lovers of the nostalgia associated with the days when VHS was king, Kim’s Video joins Rewind This! (2013), Adjust Your Tracking (2013), Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (2019) and several other movies that explore different aspects of rental, collecting and/or taping culture. Certainly, a different film could have presented a deeper dive into something like the magic of a film education provided by a place like Kim’s, but the absurd sight of a robbery crew hidden behind masks of Alfred Hitchcock, Agnès Varda, Jean-Luc Godard and other auteurs should put a smile on the face of every clerk, projectionist, ticket-taker and counter-jockey who dreamed of making a movie.

Greg Carlson (@gcarlson1972) is a professor of communication studies and the director of the interdisciplinary film studies minor program at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. He is also the film editor of the High Plains Reader, where his writing has appeared since 1997.

Kim’s Video Review: Related — Soundtracks of Cinema: ‘The Fabelmans’