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« Chita Rivera Awards, Cher, and Film Choreography. | Main | Happy 50th to Renée Zellweger »
Friday
Apr262019

Tribeca 2019 "Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project"

Team Experience reporting from the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Here's Jason Adams...

I always think of Amy Poehler's funny line on SNL about "soggy board-games and cat skeletons" when I think on the concept of hoarders. Sad people beside blackened sinks. But what if the hoarder's instincts turn out to be less a mental illness -- something more, grander? Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project uncovers that exception in a woman who obsessively recorded 35 years of news programming, from the Iran Hostages through 9/11 and up to Sandy Hook. And in the process the film argues that, as with superstition being science we just haven't yet confirmed, perhaps some of Marion's documentarian's madness wasn't madness, but prophecy...

It takes awhile to get to all that though, because Marion Stokes was a hell of an individual from the very start. As a young black radical she dove head-first into the Communist movement, getting herself onto government watch lists while her passion for bringing power to the people had her moving up its ranks here in the States. All her life fascinated by technology and its ability to disseminate knowledge Marion found her way onto Philadelphia's local access television in the 70s, where she met her husband-to-be and co-hosted a political talk show where all viewpoints were invited to freely debate.

Because of her preternatural ability to suss out the way the world was headed Marion immediately saw the value in computers and the internet -- she was a self-avowed disciple of Steve Jobs and invested heavily in Apple right from the get-go, which, well, as you can suppose Marion Stokes was set financially from there on out. And, coinciding with the explosion of round-the-clock news coverage, that's when the video-taping started. Enlisting everyone around her her home became a recording palace, the whirring sound a steady hum accompanying every whisper.

Filmmaker Matt Wolf uncovers all of this alongside Stokes' 35 years of gathered footage, unraveling Marion's mystery through the world's events she refused to let slip into the ether -- as an African-American Woman in America, Stokes knew only too well that the only thing that could beat back time's false narratives were the cold hard footage. We watch as the piles of tapes and newspapers grows around her, closing her off from life's personal obligations -- she could never leave her house for longer than six hours, the length of a VHS cassette. That tends to dampen one's interaction with society. But her genius, so far ahead of its time as to seem crazy to those around her, is well demonstrated by this riveting doc -- thank goodness for the Marion Stokes of the world; the recorders of history are our saviors.

 

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project plays 4/26, 4/27, and 4/28 at the festival

 

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Reader Comments (3)

Migod, this sounds fascinating - I have to see it.

April 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

I really want to see this one. I remember the weird sensation when discovering old vhs tapes recording from the TV how much we forget about what was going on in the world in terms of popular culture and failed attempts at pop culture and so much else. Just recording a channel for 6 hours can tell you a lot (or at least it used to be able to. Not sure it would today given the constant reairings of things. tv being a different beast than it once was)

April 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The better question is: if she was a communist, how come she invested in Apple?

April 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

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