The new film “Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project” tells the story of a Philadelphia librarian and activist who spent decades recording every TV program she possibly could. She left 70,000 videocassettes in all, which is now being digitized to help us fill in some fascinating gaps in mass media history. Plus: the story of a man whose windshield was smashed by a flying turtle. And no, it wasn’t a real-life game of Mario Kart.
One of the premieres at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival getting a lot of attention is a film called “Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project.”
Marion Stokes was a Philadelphia woman, and her decades-long project was to basically record every TV program she possibly could.
As the film explains, Stokes was a librarian and activist who became fascinated in the late 1970s by the way network TV covered the ordeal of American hostages in Iran, which is where the show “Nightline” started, and, by extension, a lot of the dramatic way TV networks often cover news even today.
But she didn’t stop there. Stokes recorded everything she could, buying extra TVs and extra video recorders to cover more ground.
Family members said it wasn’t unusual to have to pause in the middle of dinner to switch one blank tape for another, or for deliverypeople to drop off fresh tapes.
And storing all those tapes – 70,000 in all – took up plenty of space.
Was Stokes doing a sort of research project on the mass media? Or was this an obsession that took its toll on her health and family?
That’s one of the questions the film “Recorder” tries to tackle.
But whatever the goal, or the effect on her and those around her, there’s a pretty cool twist to the story of Marion Stokes and her collection.
In recording all those shows on all those channels for all those years, she created an archive of American television, a window into how we learned about news, entertainment, culture and history as it was happening.
Stokes’ family has been working with the Internet Archive to digitize every single one of those tapes, which may fill in some fascinating gaps in mass media history.
If nothing else, we’ll have plenty to watch.
I hope someone makes a documentary out of this story from Conway, South Carolina.
That’s where John Gardner was last week, driving to work, and then something hit – and smashed – his windshield.
Gardner realized he was ok, and then he realized something very odd had happened.
His windshield had been shattered by a flying turtle.
Not every day you end up on TV and the caption under your name reads, “Windshield Hit By a Turtle,” right?