A 92-year-old mother has cared 64 years for a daughter who has an intellectual disability. But now she must find her daughter a home in this powerful film that is “as unflinching as it is beautiful” (The New York Times).

"Heart-wrenching. The film is as unflinching as it is beautiful, chronicling difficult decision-making that comes to involve the whole extended family."

Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times
Synopsis: 

What happens when love runs out of time? For a 92-year-old mother, Mimi, who has cared 64 years for Dona, a daughter who has an intellectual disability, it means facing the inevitable—the likelihood that she will not outlive her daughter and the need to find her daughter a new home.

This poignant, heartbreaking and, at times, humorous documentary traces this process through the story of a quirky and deeply connected mother-daughter duo. The film spotlights the challenges of aging caregivers of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities—some 4.6 million Americans, 75% of whom live at home with family—and details the ripple effects of Dona's disability on three generations of a family.

 

Reviews

“A powerful and important film for students, practitioners, educators, and policymakers who are interested in older adults with IDD. Illustrates the lifelong implications of IDD on the entire family system."

Dr. Deborah Waldrop, University of Buffalo School of Social Work, Journal of Gerontological Social Work

“Far more powerful than any textbook or lecture, this film provides an innovative and effective tool for educating professionals and students with interests in health, education and social services. I cannot recommend it enough.”

Dr. Kathleen Roche, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University

"Beautiful and sad, joyous and painful. Above all, it represents an ever-present reality in the work that we do each and every day. In the autism and disabilities community it is a really hot issue. Due to advances in medical care, folks with disability are living longer and longer. The implications of this, emotionally, socially, clinically, financially for the families (parents, siblings, cousins, friends) are powerful in so many ways."

Dr. Bennett L. Leventhal, Deputy Director, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, UC-San Francisco

"Beautiful, heartfelt, and poignant. It shows the long-term impact of disability on families—and how disabilities touch so many families. I hope this film will inspire funding for additional housing alternatives and a decrease in the waiting lists."

Don Meyer, Founder, Sibling Support Network

"Important. It had me in every emotion from tears to anger to frustration."

Dr. Lynn Koegel, Founder, Koegel Autism Center, UC-Santa Barbara

"Incredibly powerful, touching, educational and thought-provoking. I know there are thousands of families just like this family. EVERYONE should see this film."

Abbie Weisberg, CEO/Executive Director, Keshet, Chicago

"Poignant, heartfelt and thought-provoking. A call to action! Take the journey with Mimi and Dona. This film is not to be missed!"

Joy Baum, Founding Director, The Institute For Educational Design, New York

"Film on Dallas woman getting too old to care for disabled daughter reverberates."

Sarah Mervosh, Dallas Morning News

"At once hopeful and harrowing, MIMI AND DONA looks at situations common in many families."

Cynthia Fuchs, Pop Matters
Director's Commentary: 

Mimi and Dona is a personal documentary about my aunt and grandmother. It is also a love story. I set out to make it when it appeared that my 92-year-old grandmother, Mimi, could no longer care for her daughter, my 64-year-old aunt Dona, who was diagnosed with an intellectual disability as a child and had lived at home her entire life.

In the months leading up to Dona’s move to a state-run institution in Texas, I filmed Mimi and Dona’s sweet and quirky life together. I also interviewed my mother and my brother, who voiced the ambivalence we were all feeling. Was this the right thing for Dona? Would Mimi fall apart without her?

Whenever I told people about Mimi and Dona's situation, they would chime in that they knew someone in a similar predicament—a cousin, a neighbor or a friend's sibling, some with developmental disabilities, others with mental illnesses, all struggling to find appropriate care and housing for a loved one. This was an untold story happening all around us, with caregivers like my grandmother facing agonizing decisions, often with little support or guidance.

Now that Mimi and Dona is finished, I believe we are on the cusp of a crisis with our aging population of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A recent article in the LA Jewish Journal states, "Those very parents who refused to go along with the advice of their own physicians to institutionalize their children in the 1950s now find themselves in their sunset years with little help on how to ensure a good future for their adult child with developmental disabilities." This situation plays out in heartbreaking fashion in Mimi and Dona, making the film a potentially powerful tool in the ongoing dialogue about this issue.