Maggie and I just watched Be Kind Rewind. Directed by Michel Gondry (of Eternal Sunshine fame), it follows Jack Black and Mos Def as they accidentally erase all of the videos in the store and have to recreate them with a handheld camera and a $20 budget. The overarching threat is a condo development that will replace the video store unless they manage to raise $60,000. If it sounds a little like Empire Records, that’s because it is, with one huge exception. Where Empire Records focuses on the lives of the employees, Be Kind Rewind is about the entire community of Passaic, NJ.
At turns funny and sad, Be Kind Rewind is, at heart, a paean to localized connectedness. The Be Kind Rewind store and its ensemble of weird patrons contrast with “West Coast Video”‘s army of identically dressed customers, who all get the same two movies. Implied too is the difference between the big budget movies we’re familiar with and the recreations of Be Kind Rewind. The movie deftly argues that community, and movies with heart, are more important than cookie-cutter national corporations. At the same time, the movie left me questioning how much change you can actually make in your community. It’s just not worth going up against big companies on their turf. They’re extraordinarily good at making money in ways that you just can’t compete with locally.
My takeaway is that as communities, we need to be looking for ways to reconnect that don’t involve “economic” one-size-fits-all solutions. The “sweded” movies that Black and Mos Def make are important entirely because of their context. Remove them from Passaic, sell them across the country, and they become meaningless.
It’s those very things that end up leading to real happiness.
If that’s a little heavy for you, and I don’t blame you, you should check out the “sweded” trailers a YouTube Sweded.