Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘RECORDER: The Marion Stokes Project’ – how one woman gave us 33 years of recorded television history

RECORDER: THE MARION STOKES PROJECT

Documentary Competition – World Premiere, Directed by Matt Wolf

In 1979 during the Iranian hostage crisis, Marion Stokes started recording the news on VHS tapes on different channels on different televisions. 24 hours a day. The recording didn’t stop for 33 years when she passed away on December 12, 2012, the day of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

The film is structured chronologically and I would have liked to have seen Marion Stokes’ story told in the juxtaposition of the process to digitize the over 70,000 VHS tapes. They used the closed captioning to index! How cool is that? I want to know more. Instead, the story unfolds in a traditional method of speaking with those closest to her and focusing on the woman behind this astounding asset to humanity. It’s good, but not nearly as compelling.

Even with its flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and it’s sparked many interesting conversations.

There’s 1 more screening left and it’s also coming to other film festivals.

Tribeca Film Festival
World Premiere
April 25, 26, 27, May 4

HotDocs, Toronto
International Premiere
May 1, 2, 5

Montclair Film Festival
May 8, 12

Maryland Film Festival
May 9, 10

More Screenings Soon

Long before our current era of “fake news,” Marion Stokes was amassing an incredible archive in an effort to protect and tell the truth. Beginning with the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979 and ending in 2012 with the massacre at Sandy Hook, Stokes archived and preserved the television that others were not. She recorded an incredible 70,000 VHS tapes capturing wars, triumphs, catastrophes, and more. The archive reveals the past and how it shaped television and the present moment.

Matt Wolf goes deep inside this captured history of television, providing insight into Stokes as keeper of the archive, while also showing the world that she wanted humanity to see. Taking on the aura of a mystery, Recorder delves into the curious world of a Communist radical and genius recluse who dedicated her life to a seemingly crazy mission, which in the end, is a glorious gift to the world.

—Deborah Rudolph

 

 

About Melissa Hanson

Melissa Hanson aka Dial M For Melissa - Managing Editor / Podcast Producer - Growing up, Melissa’s favorite destination was always the video store and would agonize over whether to watch something new or to rewatch a favorite. Things have not changed. Follow on Twitter @DialMForMelissa