Review | Be Kind Rewind (and the fine art of sweding)

It seems odd that the videotape (VHS) is, today, a historical artifact that begs to be remembered. But alas, that is the way of the world. For those who do remember it, you will also remember a very famous little slogan that was often written on a white strip of tape atop every tape which said: be kind, rewind.

Michel Gondry, who has done some amazing films including Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, has left me reminiscing with his latest, Be Kind Rewind. The film is about two odd guys, one of whom, Mos Def (Mike), is left in charge of the video store he works in while the other, Jack Black (Jerry), manages to erase all the tapes after his sabotage of a small local power plant leaves him magnetized for several days. In an effort to save the store from ruin, the pair decide to remake all our favorite classics like Ghostbusters, Robocop and even Lion King. All of a sudden, their work becomes pretty popular, with the neighborhood’s residents finding themselves willing to pay good money to rent a creative and often times, goofy, remake of their favorite film, which runs under 20 minutes instead of the usual 2 hours.

Business begins to pick up but the store is at the center of the City’s plan to demolish the place to make room for condos. Hence, the plan to save the building comes about and the filmmaking is taken to a whole new level. The comedy is derived mainly from the amateurish attempts to remake classic movies, especially with the improvising of special effects (check out how they pull off the drive-upside-down in the Holland Tunnel scene of Men in Black) . A lot of the dialog seems improvised as well, which works great with someone like Jack Black whose trailer-living character, Jerry, has a difficult moment with Mike and bitches honestly: “I want my own trailer, next to my trailer, a movie trailer.

While the premise is interesting enough, and the Gondry places his own whimsical touches that left my own imagination doing somersaults, the film is really about friendship and community; two elements that I think are common ground for everyone, no matter where they live. It is about a group of people who love where they live no matter how fallen apart it is, and come together to become part of the process to help preserve it, and in the most creative way imaginable.

Be Kind Rewind is a film I found to be very imaginative and even a tad artsy. In the hype of all the big glossy Hollywood blockbusters, it’s nice to see a small budget film about the very things that made us fall in love with the film in the first place! It was good enough to make me want to rewind the tape and watch it again. Or, at least, press the play button a second time.

On an alternate note…

In the film, the term “Sweded” is coined by Jack Black’s character, in reference to the process of remaking a film on a camcorder with no budget. The tapes are described as having come from Sweden as an excuse for higher rental fees and longer wait times. Its actually something that a lot of Generation-X kids grew up doing, except without the camera. And it seems with YouTube becoming a cultural icon and digital cameras being so accessible nowadays, sweding is making a stronger and bigger comeback on the web. Check out Sweded for example, a website that was inspired by the film and includes the films that the Mike and Jerry swede in Be Kind Rewind. Director Gondry also sweded his own movie’s trailer:

Actual trailer:

Sweded trailer:


  • Wallah ya Nas, with the closing of the 1JD DVD shops in amman, looks like we (Jordanians ya3ni) are going to have to start sweding movies also, ghair haika ma bitwaffi m3ana πŸ˜› ’cause there’s no way in hell I’m gonna buy a DVD for 20 JD’s… Unless maybe it was Stardust πŸ˜‰

    As for the movie, I liked the movie also, not as much as i hoped though, but still i found it to be entertaining and original. Jack Black is one of the actor that I’d watch their movies without even knowing anything about them, just because he’s a cool guy.

  • we still have a beta max player, yesterday i removed the video-tape player from the living room since 2 recievers, 1 DVD player and 2 video players (NTSC/PAL) DONT FIT in one cabinet with all the wires and we have not used them in ages, i broke my dad’s heart putting them in the storage room πŸ˜›
    hathy moda gadeemeh yaba. kubbo kubbo lol!

    broadcasting material comes on tapes called digi beta that look like the VHS but are double sized and cost something like 70 dollars each and are ofcourse digital. but tapes are cooler than DVDs.

  • For me the best part of this post was seeing you mention that “the videotape (VHS) is, today, a historical artifact that begs to be remembered” despite having been, (correct me if I’m wrong here), one of the people who mocked me for being amazed one could buy brand new cassett tapes in Dubai and Egypt.

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