Sponsored Project

Buried Above Ground

Ben Selkow
Ben Selkow, Marc Smolowitz

"What would you do if the worst thing that ever happened to you felt like it kept happening?" Former U.S. Army Captain Luis Montalvan poses this question upon his return from two combat tours in Iraq and over six years, filmmaker Ben Selkow explores the dynamic definitions of recovery through the eyes of three post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) survivors in Buried Above Ground. PTSD is a potentially devastating anxiety and stress disorder or mental health condition that develops after exposure to a serious traumatic event such as rape, war combat, domestic assault, terrorist act, gun violence, accident, or natural disaster. This mental health condition is triggered by a terrifying event or events -- either experiencing it or witnessing it. It affects about 25 million Americans or up to 8% of the general population and 450 million people globally. Buried Above Ground follows the inspiring and challenging paths to recovery of Luis, a veteran returning from service in Iraq with a Purple Heart; Ashley, a native of New Orleans whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina; and Erundina, a survivor of child abuse and domestic violence. By following multiple subjects who have developed PTSD due to a range of harrowing traumatic events, the film leverages our society's growing knowledge of PTSD in public theaters -- where there is a publicly documented record of the event, such as war and natural disaster. This will facilitate an understanding of the more private theaters of trauma, such as child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault -- where often the only record left is the story as told by the survivor. Buried Above Ground explores its subjects' lives while gaining access to their home life, therapy sessions, and communities as they try to unburden themselves from the paralyzing lock of their past traumas. The personal battles fought by Luis, Ashley and Erundina illuminate a global health condition that is misunderstood, underreported and often left untreated. After premiering at the 2015 Woodstock Film Festival as a Finalist in the Best Documentary and Best Editing categories, playing in film festivals internationally, having its television broadcast premiere on PBS World Channel’s series America ReFramed, winning a 2016 SAMHSA Voice Award, the film is launching into communities with more screenings and on a variety of DVD and digital platforms starting in the Fall of 2016.

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