Arwen Curry and Cerissa Tanner produced Stuffed as graduate students at University of California Berkeley’s School of Journalism. It’s only 20 minutes long, and every second is appropriate to their perceptive, informative narrative. Ms. Curry and Ms. Tanner conscientiously obtained and discernibly listened to the opinions of many of the leading researchers studying this mental illness: Dr. Gail Skeketee and Dr. Randy O. Frost are two of them.
The three subjects of the film are not elderly, not living in obvious hovels. All are articulate, aware to a greater or lesser degree of their challenges, and active to a greater or lesser degree in their communities in relationships and/or careers. All three are in palpable anguish about their circumstances, and all three courageously use their real names in the interviews: one passed away a year after filming. The language is outdated – “people with hoarding disorder” is a much more compassionate identifier than “hoarders,” as one example. The medical research has been superseded, but was cutting-edge in 2006. There is riveting, rare and sensationalist footage of the Collyer Brothers. But Ms. Curry and Ms. Tanner bore empathetic witness to the fact that people with hoarding disorder are as fallible, charming, vulnerable, lonely, active, connected, disconnected… human as everyone else in the world.