Cinephiles in New York of the ’80s, ’90s and early years invariably flocked to Kim’s Video, a chain of film distributors whose flagship store, Mondo Kim’s, was located on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. Kim’s Video offered movies from all over the world including all kinds of rare unreleased, underground and bootleg titles that in many cases you literally couldn’t find anywhere else. It was a treasure trove (55,000+ titles!) of mainstream, independent and just plain crazy, and the fact that it was staffed by knowledgeable staff who ranged from friendly to hostile (who later became filmmakers themselves, like Robert Greene and Sean Price Williams) only added to his encyclopedic punk rock mystique.

When the digital revolution forced Kim’s Video to close, an entire Manhattan film culture cried – and scratched its head that its owner, Yongman Kim, had agreed to donate the store’s entire collection to the small Sicilian town of Salemi. It didn’t take long for a mystery to emerge: what had happened to all those beloved VHS tapes and DVDs?

Kim’s video has the answer – and amazingly, it’s a saga straight out of the movies, full of corrupt politicians, daring heists and the Italian mafia.

Debut in the “Next” section of this year’s Sundance Film Festival and based on Karina Longworth’s 2012 village voice reportDocumentary filmmakers David Redmon and Ashley Sabin Kim’s video is a hilarious tale of the inseparable bond between life and art, and the value of ensuring the latter is preserved for future generations. Equal parts autobiographical confession, adventure film, crime caper and ghost story, it’s a celebratory affair that weaves fiction and reality together in a seriocomic way that faintly recalls recent small-screen efforts like The sample and Paul T Goldman.

Kim’s video begins with Redmon asking people at Astor Place if they know where Kim’s video went; When he receives no answer, he begins his own investigation. Given Redmon’s discussion of the impact the discovery of Kim’s video had on him moving from Texas to New York City, this venture is fueled both by his personal affections for the shop’s diverse collection — which ranges from Hollywood blockbusters to to illegal copies of Jean-Luc Godards History(s) of cinema to porn – and by believing in the importance of maintaining historical archives. Certainly no compendium was as voluminous as that of Kim’s video, and when Kim announced his plans to donate it to whoever would host it (and make it available to paying members), there was a shock — this one from the director and former employee Alex Ross Perry – that he didn’t choose New York University’s offer, but rather Salemi’s.

The man who wrote that accepted proposal, Glen Hyman, explains that Salemi was looking for the location of Kim’s video because then-mayor Vittorio Sgarbi thought it would serve as the centerpiece of a multi-million dollar renovation project aimed at transforming the city change – which was also the case previously destroyed by an earthquake – into an artists’ colony. He also admits on camera that he didn’t look carefully enough at Salemi and his links to organized crime, explaining: “I didn’t really know who we were working with. I didn’t know what we were getting into.”

When Redmon and Sabin travel to Salemi to visit the collection (which they assume they can access as members), the extent of Hyman’s carelessness becomes apparent: housed in a random building, his tapes scattered on tables, the floor and and and in boxes, and some of them water damaged, Kim’s Video’s Bounty is in neglected decay.

Finding what he was looking for isn’t enough for Redmon, however, who embarks on another mission to find out why the archive has been so neglected – and, more importantly, if there’s a way to fix it rescue. Redmon narrates with serious whimsicality, comparing his every move and emotion to lines and incidents from his favorite films (poltergeist, The Godfather, The mirror, explosionand Nights of Cabiria are just a few of the countless titles cited, crammed with clips). At the same time he throws Kim’s video as a snapshot of the attraction of the film on our feelings, ideas and actions. This connection is deepened by his active attempt to position himself as a heroic tracker-crusader thief stuffed with one argon-inspired heist of Kim’s entire video stash, which he intends to return to a more suitable home in New York.


Along the way, the directors interact with a variety of colorful characters that Redmon rightly says could have sprung from a Fellini fantasy. Among them are Kim’s video guard Enrico Tilotta (who plays music he composed for a horror film), cheerful police chief Diego Muraca, and suspected mobster Giuseppe Giammarinaro, who is reportedly the mafia figure with deep ties to Sgarbi and maybe also the man who sealed Kim’s original video deal. That means Redmon intends to steal from La Cosa Nostra, which is almost as wild as the fact that he and his cohorts eventually do so while donning the masks of legendary authors like Werner Herzog, Agnès Varda, and Alfred Hitchcock. He also tracks down and meets with the mythical Yongman Kim, who started the shop after initially running a dry cleaning business and who lives up to its menacing reputation while also revealing himself to be a former aspiring filmmaker and self-confessed movie lover, the I wants the collection to be handled properly.

Kim’s video Redmon’s legal efforts to secure the repurchase of the videos are not fully described. But such explanations are unnecessary, since the real subject of the documentary is its director’s unbridled cine passion and the ways in which it compelled him to live his dreams, uncover conspiracies, associate with powerful elites, pull off daring shenanigans and to save the day by salvaging long-lost riches. In that sense, it’s a documentary not just for New Yorkers longing for the good old days of poring over strings of national and international releases, but for anyone engrossed in this most magical of mediums. Defy the mob to save a valuable movie collection