Since 2001, post-traumatic stress disorder has affected a multitude of veterans during the War on Terror. The documentary Terra Firma, directed by Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson, seeks to shed light on the effects of PTSD on women in the war.
“The thing is that most of what the media focuses on are the few vets that make headlines because they spun out of control and caused destruction or something like that,” Anthony said. “Whereas not everybody who has PTSD is necessarily out of control."
The directors wanted to focus on female veterans, who they feel are often overlooked as soldiers in the U.S. military.
“It piqued our curiosity about who are the women that go to war,” Anthony said. “We had no idea what to expect when we went to go and film these three women.”
The documentary centers on three veterans who are using farming as a means of coping with PTSD. Through this activity they have found a sense of protecting their community in a different environment than on the warfront.
“A lot of our work revolves around sustainable agriculture and our nation’s food system, so we decided this might be an interesting topic to explore,” Anthony said.
Some of the inspiration to create this film came from the directors’ first documentary together, GROW! This documentary, released in 2012, featured 20 young farmers throughout the state of Georgia.
Inspiration for the title of the documentary came during the editing process.
“One day when I was editing, one of the women speaks about finding solid ground and finding her footing on solid ground, so that’s when it kind of struck me,” Anthony said. “We wanted it to have a feminine sort of ring to it, and ‘Terra,’ being Mother Earth, we decided that for those reading it that it might be an appropriate title.”
On Feb. 20 at 9 p.m., Georgia Organics and Taste of Athens will host a free public viewing of Terra Firma at Ciné. The directors Anthony and Masterson will attend alongside Althea Raiford, one of the featured women.
The film opens the discussion about the obliviousness of some citizens to the small stresses, such as the inability to focus, that some veterans face. Those with PTSD are often unaware that they have the disorder until a few years of it has affected them.
“Oftentimes the perception of PTSD is that you can see the effects of it on veterans, but you really can’t,” Masterson said. “And we wanted to show that while they are traumatized by their experiences in the military, they’ve had to overcome many obstacles to move forward once they’ve returned. All wars come home eventually.”
The directors were initially concerned the film might alienate male veterans, but have not heard negative feedback thus far.
"Male veterans all respond very positively and they are the first to tell us that you would have never gotten that much out of a male veteran,” Anthony said. “These women were able to speak honestly from their hearts, while men tend to be more guarded. They actually appreciated that the women stepped up and spoke on their behalf.”
Although the film focuses on female veterans, PTSD affects a variety of people and the directors acknowledge a need for awareness about this disorder and its effects.
“Really, the message of the film is not even just for veterans. It’s for a lot of people. There are people that are suffering from PTSD for a number of different reasons. It’s not always war-related,” Anthony said. "Our hope is that a lot of people will respond to the film and see something of themselves and then help themselves.”