A documentary focusing on a Philadelphia woman who archived about a million hours of television news coverage across 70,000 videocassettes and 30 years of recording is finally coming to theaters.
Filmmaker Matt Wolf today unveiled a trailer and local release date for Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project. Previously, the film screened here in Philadelphia in June. Now, Wolf announced, the film will return to the city on Nov. 22 at the Ritz at the Bourse as part of a larger release.
Stokes was a Philadelphia native who continuously recorded TV around the clock from 1979 until her death in 2012 at the age of 83. Her story first gained attention in 2013, when the Internet Archive in California began digitizing Stokes’ collection of video tapes to create a searchable database of footage.
As Wolf told the Inquirer earlier this year, Recorder delves into that feat, but also examines who Stokes was as a person. A Rittenhouse Square resident at the time of her death, the former librarian amassed a fortune after investing in Apple stock at $7. She was also an activist and card-carrying communist who became a target of FBI surveillance due to her political affiliations.
“This was not just a story about an archive, but a chance to use the archive to tell a story of the complicated person Marion was,” Wolf said of the film. However, he added that Recorder does not attempt to draw a conclusion about whether Stokes was simply a hoarder or a collector.
Ultimately, Stokes’ collection of footage grew so large that if you were to watch eight hours worth of tapes per day, it would take about 342 years to view the entire thing, the Inquirer reporter in 2013. Altogether, the tapes weighed approximately 31 tons.
“My mother had a keen sense of the uniqueness of her mission,” Stokes’ son, Michael Metelits, told the Inquirer following her death. “She would resist, forcefully, anybody who told us this was useless or a waste of time.”