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Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

The taped crusader: VHS nerds, media scholars and archive enthusiasts will appreciate this documentary about the African-American activist who recorded 30 years of TV news.

Documentary 2018 88 mins Not rated

Director: Matt Wolf

Overview

Everyone’s an amateur archivist these days, but few match the pre-internet dedication of public access TV producer Marion Stokes. Philadelphia’s visionary hoarder recorded 70,000 VHS tapes filled with news broadcasts, from 1979’s Iranian hostage crisis to the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012. Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project shows how this librarian, computer collector and Star Trek-loving civil rights activist quickly perceived the ways 24-hour cable television was rewiring viewers’ minds. Hence her obsessive preservation project, captured to brilliant effect by celebrated documentarian Matt Wolf, who previously directed Teenage (2013). Enhanced by Owen Pallet’s score, the film’s cathode ray tube textures and armchair sensory overload will mesmerise everyone, from curious cultural historians to extreme analogue technology fetishists.