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Filmmaker Kris Montag's father chained a row of shopping carts to the front-yard fence of the family's Brooklyn home. He piled stacks of old newspapers in the kitchen until it became impossible to use the sink; when his wife threw them away, he became furious. The father of cinematographer and co-producer Jessica Jennings lives on a farm, so his 'collecting' is less obvious, until he takes you into his enormous barn, filled to the ceiling with items he thinks might be useful someday.

Hoarding behavior like this can seem amusing, unless you have to live with it every day. This compelling personal documentary takes us inside two families whose lives have been shaped by parents who are 'packrats,' and have trouble balancing their love for their spouses and children with their obsessive accumulation of 'things.'

It also looks at what we know about the causes and progression of this odd but by no means uncommon phenomenon. Many clinicians and researchers now believe that hoarding behavior is related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), though it may also sometimes be a symptom of Alzheimer's or other dementias. Montag interviews a social worker who talks about the difficulty of dealing with elderly hoarders in a hospital environment, and with Randy Frost, a leading clinician and researcher, who addresses the hope of treatment for the disorder. She also introduces the owner of Disaster Masters, a company specializing in crisis management for hoarders whose collections have created serious health and safety problems in their homes.

'I am currently working with a person who is a hoarder. The documentary helped me to see beyond the clutter and to understand the motivation behind the hoarding behavior.' - Donna Phelps, LSW

'A courageous, compelling personal documentary about Montag's late father, who had a pathological need to collect and hoard all kinds of clutter, turning the house into a junk-pile inferno. Montag goes beyond her own family to talk to psychologists and also to others who have to live with a disturbed packrat.' - Gerald Peary, Boston Phoenix

'It's perfectly normal to collect...For some people, though, attachments to objects can go overboard. Montag's documentary personalizes what textbooks dehumanize. Hoarding isn't just an unhealthy behavior, there's a person behind it.' - Stina Chyn, Film Threat

'People with a loved one afflicted by hoarding will recognize their own lives in the experience revealed here. For clinicians seeking to put a face on a textbook description, Packrat will help them appreciate the complex family dynamics and hidden human pain associated with the disorder.' - Rod Williams, PhD, Clinical Psychologist

'At once an entertaining portrait of an eccentric yet familiar behavior and a testimony to family members' quite long term suffering in the face of mental illness. Recommended.' - Video Librarian


Main credits

Montag, Kris Britt (film director)

Other credits

Alyer J. Breau, editor; Jessica Jennings, director of photography; music, Bonnie Janofsky.

Docuseek subjects

Distributor subjects

Brain Disorders
Fanlight Collection
Mental Illness
Social Work


film; video ; documentary; hoard; hoarder; hoarding behavior; pack rat; packrat; junk collection; junk collector; junkaholic; obsessive compulsive disorder; obsessive compulsive personality disorder; obsession; obsessional; compulsion ; alzheimers disease; dementia; senility; jessica jennings; randy frost; ron alford; disaster masters; aging; older American; elderly; senior citizen; gerontology; nursing home; long-term care facility; psychology; psychological; psychologist; psychiatry; psychiatric; psychiatrist; mental health; mental illness; brain disorder; mind; behavior; therapy ; disorders ; social work; social worker; social welfare; "Packrat"; The Fanlight Collection

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