Cinema Detroit to screen documentary about activist Marion Stokes, who spent 30 years recording TV news

Staff Pick


Marion Stokes. - ZEITGEIST FILMS
  • Zeitgeist Films
  • Marion Stokes.

What do you get when you take more than 84,000 hours of television across 70,000 VHS and Beta tapes, spanning 30 years? No, this isn’t an alternate take on Vanessa Carlton’s 2002 banger “A Thousand Miles,” this is the legacy of eccentric activist (and, perhaps, the greatest unknown archivist of our time) Marion Stokes, who privately recorded American TV news for 24 hours a day for more than three decades.

Stokes, a truth-seeker and wealthy recluse, owned nine homes, each one packed to the rafters, and spent years with multiple televisions running and recording local and national 24-hour news programs, often toggling between ideologically opposing outlets as a means to reveal to society what the media had chosen to reflect to them. The project, which began in 1979, ended when Stokes died in December 2012. The news that day was focused on Newtown, Connecticut, where an armed gunman took the lives of 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary. The massive collection of tapes was left to her son Michael Metelits, who later donated his mother’s work to the Internet Archive, filling four shipping containers with tapes and documentation. The 2019 Matt Wolf-directed documentary Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project chronicles Stokes’ passion, activism, and madness, and it highlights the importance of a project of this scale. Screenings will be accompanied by discussions led by social and digital justice organizer Tawana Petty.

Screenings start at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, and 7 p.m. on Monday, March 9, at Cinema Detroit; 4126 Third St., Detroit; 313-482-9028; Tickets are $9.

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