From The Fanlight Collection

Directed by Kris Britt Montag

28 minutes / Color
Release: 2004
Copyright: 2004

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.

The DVD of Packrat includes two versions:
28 Minutes & 52 Minutes Long
DVD ISBN 1-57295-801-4, Order No. QD-410

"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

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Kris Britt Montag
Packrat: The Movie

Select Accolades

  • Northampton Independent Film Festival
  • New Hampshire Film EXPO
  • Women in Film & Video New England
  • American Psychological Association
  • Western Psychological Association
  • Association for Gerontology in Higher Education
  • Council on Social Work Education
  • Plymouth Independent Film Festival
  • MassHousing Conference on Hoarding
  • Council on Social Workers Film Festival 2013


Profiles of individuals who love and support someone struggling with mental illness, examining the profound impact that these disorders can have on other family members.

Anna Ledbetter, Gary Ledbetter, & Krista Ledbetter | 2007 | 22 minutes | Color | English

From Oscar-winning producer Eva Orner (Taxi to the Dark Side), this multi-faceted documentary explores the full spectrum of anxiety-related disorders, from panic attacks and phobias to obsessive compulsive disorder.

Eva Orner and Sarah Stephens | 1997 | 52 minutes | Color | English

Some people can't seem to throw anything away. This engaging documentary invites us to enter the mind of the compulsive hoarder, while dispelling the stereotype that all "packrats" are isolated elderly derelicts.

Arwen Curry & Cerissa Tanner | 2006 | 20 minutes | Color | English