The husband-and-wife team of Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson attended the world premiere of their documentary film Terra Firma on Saturday afternoon and were available for a Q&A session following the screening.
The documentary Terra Firma features the post-military lives of three women who have struggled with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Filmed in interview format, Terra Firma introduces Anna Mann, Althea Raiford and Sonia Kendrick, veterans who have found respite and purpose in farming for their local communities. Though having struggled to readapt to civilian life, each woman found a new goal and sense of usefulness in growing crops. “You get confidence back by being good at something,” Mann says in the film.
The documentary also concentrates on how farming has enabled them to face their PTSD head-on. Raiford explains that she had been wholly focused on her own problems, but with farming, she has been able to concentrate on helping others instead. The three women also view farming as a continuation of their service to the country. Kendrick says that “I can’t fight in wars anymore, but I can fight hunger,” while Raiford adds that growing organic crops is one way of protecting the land. Through their own determination and strength, these women have begun a healing process in an industry that has allowed them to reconnect with the land and their communities.
When developing the idea for the film, directors Masterson and Anthony initially had no idea where the subject would take them. “The more we looked at it, the more we were fascinated by it,” Masterson said. “Filming is sort of an accidental event sometimes.” Anthony noted that men are usually the subject of films about soldiers and that women are often overlooked. “We felt they deserved a voice,” she said, a statement that was followed by applause.
When asked how many women were screened before the three featured were chosen, both directors smiled sadly at the audience.
“These were the only three in the entirety of the United States who came forward to do this,” Anthony revealed. This fact alone reveals the underrepresentation of this group in modern media and conversation. Masterson continued, “A lot of other women veterans were so afraid of being manipulated, exploited and used that they didn’t want to talk.”
Despite the lack of volunteers, and, indeed, because of it, Masterson and Anthony’s goal for Terra Firma is to share it with the community and show it to those who need to see that they are not alone. “We want to take it out to the world,” Anthony said, citing that they have already received requests—including from an audience member just minutes earlier—to screen the film for groups and conferences.
One viewer thanked the directors for their ability to bring to the screen not only a better understanding of the PTSD the three women suffered and on which so many post-war films concentrate, but also a distinct focus on the hope they have experienced with farming. “It was important to not exploit the subject or subjects,” Masterson said after strongly affirming that it was their intention to portray the women’s healing as a theme. “These women allowed us into their lives because if they could just help one more veteran, that was their reward.”
“These women are very passionate,” he continued. “They are driven, motivated, but so soft, so vulnerable. It was fascinating to see that vulnerability with a can-do attitude.”