Tribeca Film Review: ‘Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project’

Variety | 4/25/2019 | Owen Gleiberman
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VHS tapes now have a weird sort of stodgy magical aura. Long ago, they were standard. With the arrival of DVD, they were behind the curve. Then they were totally outdated and unworkable (at a certain point, who besides Quentin Tarantino still had an operational VCR?). But now they’re so old they’re like mystic electromagnetic tablets from a lost age.

“Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project” is Matt Wolf’s documentary about a lifelong African-American resident of Philadelphia, Marion Stokes (born in 1929), who starting in the late 1970s developed an obsession with making home recordings of TV news coverage. For 30 years, she kept 3 to 8 VCRs going round the clock, 24 hours a day, taping multiple channels. She retained every tape, cataloguing and storing it, creating a running diary of television news coverage, from network to CNN to the cable channels that followed. Those tapes became her purpose and her lifeblood, maybe her identity.

Tribeca - Film - Review - Marion - Stokes

Tribeca Film Review: 'Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project'

Stokes, as we learn, was a hoarder in more conventional ways as well. She came from a prosperous family and lived in a large apartment in The Barclay, a ritzy condominium building in the Rittenhouse Square section of Philly, and after she bought stock in Apple at around $7 a share (Steve Jobs and his computers were another fixation of hers), she increased her wealth enough to occupy eight or nine more apartments, which she turned into glorified storage units. She owned 40 to 50 thousand books, dozens of brand-new Apple computers, and piles of furniture. Her mountain of VHS tapes didn’t exist in a vacuum.

Marion - Stokes - Motivation - Geek-out

Yet as we get to know Marion Stokes, her motivation for doing what she did comes to seem more and more resonant and fascinating and less and less of a private compulsive geek-out. She was...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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