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in Filmmaking
on Dec 9, 2007

Cynthia Lester’s film My Mother’s Garden has been selected for the Slamdance Documentary Competition and will premiere at Park City in January. The film has a MySpace page which streams the extraordinary show reel (also embedded below) and contains this summary of the film:

My Mother’s Garden explores one woman’s extreme attachment to material objects and her emotional struggle to let go of them. My Mother’s Garden is the story of Eugenia Lester whose hoarding disorder has entered a dangerous and life threatening stage. Directed by her daughter Cynthia, it documents how one family comes together to cope with their mother’s disorder and rebuild a lost sense of family. Through tracing Eugenia’s history we learn how the past has shaped her current situation. Born in Poland during the Polish uprising of 1944 and raised by a Holocaust survivor in communist Poland, where hoarding marerial items was a way of life, she is overwhelmed by the excess of our consumer driven society. At its heart, My Mother’s Garden is the story of a strong, intellegent woman who must undergo a deep metamorphosis to save herself from the depths of mental illness. For more information please visit: www.mymothersgardenmovie.com.

Interestingly, while it may seem that the psychological disorder experienced by Lester’s mother — compulsive hoarding — is a strange and obscure one, it’s apparently not. Family Resource Community for Compulsive Hoarding is a support group for families faced with this illness and they have a message board on which people are beginning to post their interest in seeing this film.

And here is a Reader’s Digest article from March discussing the film and the illness. An excerpt:

Cynthia’s upcoming documentary, My Mother’s Garden, records the long, painful process of separating Lester from most of her possessions during the summer and fall of 2005. It took Lester’s children about eight weeks and some $20,000 simply to empty the place. Lester’s disorder made her anything but grateful when she returned home after the cleanup. “I hate you people; you robbed me,” she shouted, then started weeping. A few weeks later, Lester was so depressed and suicidal that she needed emergency care.

More than a year after the painful intervention, Lester seems to be doing much better in a board-and-care facility. “I think our family and my mother are in a much better space,” Cynthia says. “We are closer and happier.” But Cynthia is still trying to arrange appropriate treatment for her mother’s disorder.

Here’s the trailer:

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