A documentary about Marion Stokes (d. 2012), the civil rights activist, feminist, and news archivist who recorded 70,000 hours of broadcasts over three decades, is coming out. She had VCRs running all day for decades!
Stokes and her recordings, which have been acquired by the Internet Archive in Richmond, California, are the subject of director Matt Wolf's new film called "Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project."
Wolf first heard about the tapes from media coverage from when the collection was transported from Philadelphia to the Bay Area. He makes films about archival footage and thought Stokes' collection was "unprecedented."
"It felt like an archive that could include anything and everything," he says. "And that challenge and that possibility really appealed to me."
What drove the obsession? That, of course, is the subject — the essential mystery — of "Recorder." When the movie first tells us about Marion Stokes and her ultimate expression of news mania, it sounds like she's suffering from a peculiar information-age version of OCD, or maybe some bizarrely abstract form of hoarding. She was collecting VHS tapes, but she was really collecting what was on those tapes. (One listens to her story and thinks: If only she'd had the Cloud!)