June 24, 2024

Mount Dora’s ‘Starry Night’ House Gets the Star Treatment in New Documentary

2 min read| Published On: June 24th, 2024|

By Cindy Peterson

Mount Dora’s ‘Starry Night’ House Gets the Star Treatment in New Documentary

2 min read| Published On: June 24th, 2024|

This week, film crews will begin working on a unique documentary centered on the Van Gogh ‘Starry Night’ house in Mount Dora. Directed and produced by award-winning filmmaker Lionel (Lee) Montells, this project seeks to share the extraordinary story of a family’s love, resilience, and artistic expression with the world.

Lionel, a former head of Spanish-language PBS and an artist himself, was deeply moved by the story behind the house’s transformation.

“My fascination with this story is how a simple sign code violation started a succession of events that captured the hearts of millions of people all around the world, even to this day,” he says. “Not only did it make it to national headlines, I have articles about it in Chinese and Swahili. It impacted people all over the world.”

Nancy Nemhauser, her husband Lubomir Jastrzebski, and their adult son, Chip, who has autism, reside in the house. In 2017, inspired by Chip’s love for Van Gogh’s masterpiece, Nancy decided to paint their cement barrier in their yard with the Starry Night motif to help Chip find his way home if he ever got lost. When the city informed her that the fence had to match the house, intending on her painting it back to white, Nancy responded by painting her entire 10,000-square-foot home in the Starry Night design. This act led to a legal battle with the city of Mount Dora, culminating in a 2018 settlement and an apology from the city’s mayor.

Lionel will conduct interviews with various individuals involved in the story, including family members, neighbors, and even strangers who supported the endeavor. Former Mount Dora Mayor Nick Girone and the family’s legal counsel Jeremy Talcott from Pacific Legal Foundation will also provide their insights. Also included will be Style Magazine’s own Roxanne Brown, who was instrumental in reporting the story during her years at the Daily Commercial Newspaper.

“I fell in love with the reason why this lady painted the house,” Lionel says. “My point is that it’s not about the fight. I don’t care about the fight. To me, the incredible thing about this story is how this piece of paper created a sequence of events that made what I call the perfect storm.”

One of the key elements Lionel wishes to explore is the impact of a young girl who once offered her allowance to help the family continue painting the mural. However, he hasn’t been able to find her.

“It was a turning point,” Lionel says. “The innocence and support of that little girl made them realize it was worth fighting for.”

Anyone with pictures of themselves visiting the home is encouraged to submit photos via the documentary’s website, www.starryfight.com. Lionel will be taking the film throughout national film festivals and hopes to have the film available on streaming networks.

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About the Author: Cindy Peterson

Originally from the small town of Berryville, Arkansas, Cindy has become a multimedia specialist in journalism, photography, videography, and video editing. She has a B.S. in Communications from the University of Central Arkansas and produces Style Magazine's Sports Hub Podcast and the Healthy Living Podcast. She also produces for Beacon College’s Telly Award-winning PBS show, “A World of Difference.” When she isn’t working, Cindy loves traveling the National Parks with her husband , Ryan, and son, David, photographing wildlife.

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