For over 30 years, Marion Stokes obsessively and privately recorded American television news 24 hours a day filling 70,000 VHS tapes, capturing wars, talk shows and commercials that show us how television shaped the world of today.
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Marion Stokes secretly recorded television 24 hours a day for 30 years from 1975 until her death in 2012. For Marion taping was a form of activism to seek the truth, and she believed that a comprehensive archive of the media would be invaluable for future generations. Her visionary and maddening project nearly tore her family apart, but now her 70,000 VHS tapes are being digitized and they'll be searchable online.
Antenna Documentary Film Festival is back with a schedule full of cutting-edge and thought-provoking documentaries from around the globe. 'Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project' is just what I needed, to get pulled into this doc-lovers paradise.
In 'Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project' we get to meet Marion Stokes, a former TV producer and activist turned recluse. As a form of activism, to seek out the truth and check facts, she started recording everything that happened on television. This all started with her obsession with the Iranian hostage crisis back in 1979, which eventually became an event everyone was watching 24/7 and gave the idea to start a non-stop news channel - CNN. She noticed that important information started to change while the story developed and wanted to make sure the truth would never get erased from the public eye. For three decades - until her death in 2012 - she secretly recorded TV channels in America, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Over 70,000 VHS tapes hold footage on wars, catastrophes, talk shows, commercials and lies, shaping the world we live in today. This documentary gives us an in-depth look at who Marion Stokes was and bares the question many would ask: "Why did she do it?". Director Matt Wolf interviews Stokes' family, friends and colleagues, who emotionally look back at Marion's behaviour and career. There's also an aspect in the documentary that dissects how she became the old reclusive lady in that New York apartment. Not only collecting everything that happens on her many tv's, but also identifying herself with Steve Jobs - adopted, hard on people and smarter than most of us - and buying 'Apple'-shares. She loved technology, because it would unlock people's potential.
What I really appreciate in this documentary, was the personal feelings brought forward in how Marion treated the people closest to her, not always putting her in a good light. As her own son Michael says: "She had unrealistic standards in how people should behave with each other." Yes, she did great work on screen and behind closed doors to move herself forward. But in doing that, she was at times cruel to her son and loved ones, to the extent of pushing them out of her life. This made me connect to the interviewees and pulled me in even more. Every one of these people, helped her change the tapes on a daily basis. Marion knew exactly when a tape would stop.
The facts are all there - Marion was a very intelligent woman of colour and at the forefront of equal rights for everyone. Her mission was crazy, but ends up being a gift to the modern world, archiving footage that might otherwise have been lost throughout time and space. We can only thank this woman for what she has accomplished and be grateful, without judging her personal shortcomings in life. Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project is fascinating in many ways, flipping from interviews to important footage that define the modern world, not shying away from the hard truth and truly identifying what is right in front of us.
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