‘Kim’s Video’: an ode to physical media and film history

David Redmon and Ashley Sabin at Bright Lights Cinema. (Photo by Maya Eberli)

By Maya Eberlin

On Thursday, Nov. 2, Bright Lights Cinema screened “Kim’s Video,” a documentary that premiered this past January at the Sundance Film Festival. It examines the strange fate of the titular New York City video store and its legendary collection of over 55,000 films on VHS. Within this collection are countless bootlegs of foreign films and other works, which are now considered archival footage or lost media.

David Redmon and Ashley Sabin at Bright Lights Cinema. (Photo by Maya Eberli)

With the rise of online streaming in the early 2000s, owner and collector Yongman Kim was forced to shut down four of the store’s five locations throughout New York. The extensive collection ended up in Salemi, Sicily, a city that at the time was still attempting to rebuild from the devastating earthquake that had ravaged it in 1968.

“Kim’s Video” details co-director David Redmon’s six-year-long journey to locate the collection and grant the public access to the films once again. It is both a documentary and an ode to physical media and film history.

Following the screening, co-director and life partners David Redmon and Ashley Sabin answered questions from the audience.

Redmon credits the video store for “his training on how to make movies,” and stated that he and Sabin often went there together during their college years.

“I transferred [from Emerson] and did art history, and David was a sociologist, and we just went to Kim’s. We went to Kim’s all the time. We would edit all day in our rent-stabilized apartment in Brooklyn, and then we would go to Kim’s at night time,” Sabin said.

In response to a question from the moderator, Redmon stated that “he first realized that he had a movie…when [he] first entered the collection” in Salemi. Sabin explained that they initially wanted to make a movie about Kim’s Video in 2009 that detailed the initial donation of the collection, but it “didn’t pan out.” However, she said that they made the film at the perfect time, as when they reached out to Mr. Kim during its production, he stated that he was “ready to tell this story.”

Redmon describes his first encounter with the collection in Salemi as an almost spiritual experience:

“I felt my body kind of floating, and there it was … Kim’s Video … I entered the room. And when I did, it was almost like a pressure relief … and then the voices of the movie collection told me, they said, ‘You’re here! We’ve been waiting for you. We wanna go home.’ And so I told them … ‘Don’t worry, I’m gonna come back; you’re gonna go home.’”