“Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project” is Matt Wolf’s documentary about a lifelong African-American resident of Philadelphia, Marion Stokes (born in 1929), who starting in the late 1970s developed an obsession with making home recordings of TV news coverage. For 30 years, she kept 3 to 8 VCRs going round the clock, 24 hours a day, taping multiple channels. She retained every tape, cataloguing and storing it, creating a running diary of television news coverage, from network to CNN to the cable channels that followed. Those tapes became her purpose and her lifeblood, maybe her identity.
What drove the obsession? That, of course, is the subject — the essential mystery — of “Recorder.