Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project
Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, Matt Wolf’s (Teenage, Wild Combination) fascinating documentary portrait of the life and obsessions of an eccentric archivist, will open at the Metrograph in New York on Friday, November 15 with a national rollout to follow (including Philadelphia on Nov. 22 and LA on Nov. 29).

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project delves into the curious life of Marion Stokes, an African-American, left-wing activist who later became a fabulously wealthy recluse archivist. For thirty years, the Philadelphia-based Stokes obsessively and privately recorded American television 24 hours a day. Her visionary and maddening project nearly tore her family apart, but now her tapes are being digitized for future generations.

Marion Stokes was secretly recording American television twenty-four hours a day for thirty years. It started in 1979 with the Iranian Hostage Crisis at the dawn of the twenty-four hour news cycle. It ended on December 14, 2012 while the Sandy Hook massacre played on television as Marion passed away. In between, Marion recorded on 70,000 VHS tapes, capturing revolutions, lies, wars, triumphs, catastrophes, bloopers, talk shows, and commercials that tell us who we were, and show how television shaped the world of today.

Before the era of “fake news,” Marion was fighting to protect the truth by archiving everything that was said and shown on television. The public didn’t know it, but the networks were disposing their archives for decades into the trashcan of history. Remarkably, Marion saved it, and now the Internet Archive will digitize her tapes and we’ll be able to search them online for free.

A mystery in the form of a time capsule, the film delves into the strange life of a radical Communist activist who became a fabulously wealthy recluse archivist. Marion’s work was crazy but it was also genius, and she would pay a profound price for dedicating her life to this visionary and maddening project.

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