In Teenage, director Matt Wolf looked at the youth movement between the 1900s and the 1940s. For his next documentary feature, Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, he found a kindred spirit. Someone who took an interest, in her own misunderstood way, at a relatively short time in history.
A time, nonetheless, when seismic cultural changes have taken place. This movie’s titular subject, Marion Stokes, started recording 3 television channels without interruption starting from the 1970s. Her initial goal was to see how the news shaped the way Western eyes perceived foreign and rival cultures.
But in doing so she also captured the news cycle and how it affects Western culture. Recorder is also a comprehensive look at Stokes life. That life is essential in understanding a project that baffled her family. She was also a young black communist who eventually softened her views. This is the most positive portrayal of such a person.
Culture is a nebulous thing, and Recorder‘s approach to tackle as much of it was possible is understandable. Wolf’s focus on Stokes’ main interest of news and politics is razor sharp and inherently interesting. It doesn’t, however, handle the human interest sections with the same vigor.
Recorder speaks to as many people who were close to Stokes. This makes it better than any fictional version of her story. Wolf interviews both the people who worked under her and her family who have mixed feelings about her. These talking heads, however, seem to drown out Stokes’ voice.
Otherwise, Recorder takes advantage of the archive footage that Stokes recorded. It captured her husband falling in love with her for the first time, which is a treasure to see. It also reshapes ghe important events in recent human history. And doing so in a way I can describe as masterful.
- Release Date: 5/1/2019