Mimi and Dona
November 23,10:30 pm

Mimi and Dona

About the Film

What happens when love runs out of time? For 92-year-old Mimi, who has spent much of her life caring for 64-year-old Dona, her daughter with an intellectual disability, it means facing the inevitable — the likelihood that she will not outlive her daughter and the need to find her a new home. Filmmaker Sophie Sartain, Mimi and Dona’s granddaughter and niece, respectively, captures the quirky and deeply connected mother-daughter duo at their most poignant crossroads. MORE

Since Mimi Thornton’s husband died in 1968, she has lived with her daughter Dona in their suburban home in Dallas. The cognitively challenged Dona has possibly undiagnosed autism, but over many years, Mimi and Dona carved out a happy life for themselves, one filled with errands, church, weekly visits to the beauty parlor, and nightly doses of Wheel of Fortune. Frozen in time, they have lived off their Social Security checks, inside the same home, for forty years. But Mimi and Dona's symbiotic existence is about to come to a crashing halt. In part worried for her safety, as well as dealing with the reality of aging, Mimi’s family has made the agonizing decision that she can no longer care for Dona, and Dona must leave home to live in a state-run facility in nearby Denton, Texas. After 64 years, Mimi will have an empty nest and Dona will suddenly be away from home.

In this powerfully personal documentary, Sartain chronicles the painful process of separating her aunt and grandmother. She also interviews her own mother (Dona’s sister) and other family members, reaching back to explore the complicated legacy of Dona's disability on three generations of her Texas family as well as its history of family members with mental and developmental disabilities. Ultimately, family bonds run deep and true, even when faced with the greatest challenge yet.

The Filmmaker

Sophie Sartain is an award-winning writer for print, film, television, and digital media. Sartain's credits include the 2012 documentary Hava Nagila (The Movie) (writer/producer), the 2014 documentary Above and Beyond (writer) and the 2008 film Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh (writer/co-producer). Sartain's past positions include Executive Director of Editorial Services for MGM Home Entertainment and Managing Editor of Sony Online Entertainment. She has contributed as a writer on several film and media projects, including In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee (PBS/POV) and The Rich in America (A&E). As a grant writer, she has raised more than $1 million for documentary projects. In 2011, her grant proposal for a PBS documentary on photographer Dorothea Lange was awarded a prestigious NEH production grant. As a freelance writer, her clients have included Los Angeles Magazine, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Studios, New Line Home Entertainment, CBS Sports Radio, and ABC Radio Networks.


Film Credits

A Film by Sophie Sartain

In Memory of Dona Thornton

Produced, Written, and Directed by
Sophie Sartain

Edited by
Chris Callister

Featuring Music by
Daniel Lanois

Sophie Sartain

Additional Cinematography
Ginny Martin
Dyanna Taylor

Executive Producer
Marta Kauffman

Executive Producer
Nancy Spielberg

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Supervising Producer for ITVS
Jen Gilomen

Consulting Producers
Roberta Grossman
Deann Borshay Liem

Consulting Editor
Vivien Hillgrove

In Order of Appearance
Mimi Thornton
Dona Thornton
Sophie Sartain
Merrily Sartain
Bo Sartain
Lucy Rodriguez
Ben Grossman-Sartain
Betty Martin
Isabel Grossman-Sartain
Ruby Grossman-Sartain
Bryan Lovelace
Keith Sartain
Sophie Alice Sartain
Lizzie Sartain
William Sartain
Emily Sartain
Gerry Dalby
Deryl Dalby
Amanda Williamson
Jane Rosen
Nakeyia Pitts
Lucy Sartain
John Bradley Sartain
Anabelle Sartain

Production Assistant
July Hodara

Additional Camera
Roberta Grossman
David Berrent
Isabel Grossman-Sartain
Merrily Sartain

Web Design
Marnee Evans

Archival Research
Linda Stogner

Music Clearance
Linda Osher

Post-Production Supervisor & Color Correction
Chris Callister

Laura Siegel

Audio Post-Production
Berkeley Sound Artists

Narration Recording
Buzzy’s Recording

HD Mastering
Heather Weaver

Justine Jacob
Chris Perez

Layla Bozek

Los Angeles Shoot

Eric Blum

Sound Recordist
Bob Schuck

Assistant Camera
Paul Marbury

Archival Stills
Denton County Office of History and Culture

Other Materials
Wheel of Fortune
© Sony Corporation of America

The Price Is Right
© FreemantleMedia Operations B.V.

The Lawrence Welk Show
© The Welk Group, Inc.

Geraldo at Large
© FOX News


"Bell Toll"
"Desert Rose”
“In Crystal”
“Plains of Abraham”
“Sacred and Secular”
“Space Kay”
“The Hunter”
Songs written by Daniel Lanois
Published by Daniel Lanois Songs (ASCAP)
Administered by Universal Music Publishing, Inc.

Additional Music
“You Are My Sunshine”
Written by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell
Performed by Gene Autry
Courtesy of Sony Music

“True Love”
Written by Cole Porter
Courtesy of Warner Chappell

“Sunshine in the Shadows”
Written and Performed by The Carter Family
Courtesy of Sony Music

“Walking the Floor Over You”
Written and Performed by Ernest Tubb
Courtesy of Warner Chappell
Records Under License From
Universal Music Enterprises

“When We’re Gone, Long Gone”
Written by Kieran Kane and Paul O’Hara
Performed by Emmylou Harris,
Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton
By Arrangement with
Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing

“Lonesome Heart Swing”
“Two Step Across Texas”

“Good Old Ways”
“Dream About Home”
Courtesy of Audio Network US, Inc.

Special Thanks
Rachel Andres and Ben Tysch
David and Roberta Berrent
Elizabeth Grossman
Stefanie Hall and Renee Mochkatel
Sylvia Komatsu
Andy Maher
Sharon McCormick
Monica Rosenthal
Alice Sartain
Meg Sartain

Fiscal Sponsor
Katahdin Productions

Funding Provided by
Gary and Ellen Bialis
Susan E. Swanson and Lisa B. Thomas Foundation

Mimi and Dona is a co-production of Sophie Sartain and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

This program was produced by Sophie Sartain who is solely responsible for its content.

© 2015, Sophie Sartain. All Rights Reserved.

Have you ever had to care for a loved one with special needs? What more could American communities do to assist families in situations like Mimi and Dona’s?


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Have you ever had to care for a loved one with special needs? What more could American communities do to assist families in situations like Mimi and Dona’s?