POV: Love & Stuff
Premieres Monday, Sept. 5, 2022 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV / On demand with PBS Video App
Follow Peabody Award-winning director Judith Helfand as she reckons with her mother’s belongings following her death, via decades of family home videos in the absorbing "Love & Stuff," making its national broadcast premiere on POV.
Veteran filmmaker Helfand harnesses every bit of her signature first-person style and heimish gallows humor to face a universally gut wrenching reality – imagining life without her mother – who faces imminent death from terminal cancer much sooner than later.
After one week of ritual mourning known as shiva, Helfand must come to terms with a new reality. She and her brothers begin the arduous task of going through all their mothers’ stuff – and the stuff their mom could not bear to part with belonging to their dad – generations of family photos, Judaica, and memorabilia.
All of which her mother had wanted to go through with Helfand while she was alive so that her children would know what was what, who was who, and perhaps most important to her but never said outright: to help jumpstart the conversation about the end of her life and their life together as a family.
While time is not on Helfand’s side, 25 years worth of archival family footage-turned-cinematic portal is – and in the wake of her mother’s death – it becomes a means of connecting the love to the “stuff" and one generation to the next.
Helfand had been striving to adopt a baby in the year before her mothers’ health totally declined. Instead, seven months to the day her mother died, when she is in the deepest of grief, she gets the call that will turn her into an instant “old new" [single] mom to a much-longed-for newborn.
At nearly 50 years old, a half century older than her baby girl, that dreaded question, “How do you live without your mother?” takes on new meaning, pushing Helfand to explore, face, and deal with – a lot of love, a lot of stuff – and ask the ultimate question: "What do we really want to leave our children?"
"Before the Covid-19 pandemic, my biggest fear and the thing I could not even let myself imagine, let alone find the words for, was to say goodbye to my mother and thank her for being so wonderfully loving, intuitive and warm. I also couldn’t fathom, as a family, helping help her live a very good death at home – an end of life of our own making," said director Judith Helfand. "Now, in the wake of what I hope was the worst of the pandemic, I realize and fully appreciate what a miraculous gift my family and I were granted. Our face to face end of life was even accompanied by a face to face funeral, seven days of shiva, and a loving circle of friends and family. Launching this film now, while millions of people are suffering from unresolved grief because they did not get to be face-to-face with their loved ones at the end, and did not get to mourn in-person with community, turns the film, and the conversations and actions we hope it inspires, into an incredibly timely opportunity and privilege. My parents were avid ‘viewers like you’ of PBS. Having ‘Love & Stuff’ broadcast on POV here in New York on WNET, and across the nation, would have made them wildly kvell (Yiddish for "burst with pride")."
“Twenty-five years ago, POV aired ‘A Healthy Baby Girl,’ Judith’s intensely personal film about her battle with cancer caused by DES, a drug prescribed to her mother during pregnancy,” said POV’s executive producer Chris White. “In ‘Love & Stuff’ she’s come full circle, gifting us with a similarly profound and layered multigenerational exploration from both sides of the camera. From birth to death and grief to life.”
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In addition to standard closed captioning, POV, in partnership with audio description service DiCapta, provides real time audio interpretations for audiences with sensory disabilities.
Produced by Judith Helfand Productions, Medalia Productions and Secret Sauce Media and Artemis Rising Foundation in co-production with American Documentary. Judith Helfand is the director, the producers are Helfand, Hilla Medalia and Julie Parker Benello. Marina Katz is editor with David Cohen is also a co-director. The executive producers are Erika Dilday and Chris White for American Documentary, Regina K. Scully, Jenny Raskin, Susan Margolin, Megan Gelstein, Nancy Blachman, Sarah Cavanaugh, Dan Cogan and Geralyn White Dreyfous along with Abigail Disney, who is a contributing producer.