From Shock to Awe is an intimate, feature-length documentary that profiles the lives of several U.S. and Canadian veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of their service in the armed forces and chronicles their transformative healing journeys with psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and medical marijuana.
In Operation Homecoming/Crash Landing, Luc Côté’s groundbreaking film about Canadian soldiers living with PTSD, we were left with a feeling of hopelessness. It seemed nothing could be done to help these men and women recover from their psychic wounds, and that government institutions were leaving them by the wayside. Now, in From Shock to Awe, we have a beacon of hope: psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.
Guided by this beacon, we’ve documented the stories of these veterans—in their own words—of what it was like to be in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, of the events and circumstances that contributed to their PTSD, and of coming home to a world that doesn’t have a clue as to what they went through. We’ve documented how in this “normal world” they miss the camaraderie, the clear purpose and mission of battle, the intensity of focus, and the respect that comes from being a warrior.
We’ve documented how they struggle to let their guard down, to rediscover intimacy and trust with their loved ones, even to sleep. We’ve documented their stories of endless nightmares, of looking for work, of how hard it is to get out of bed or leave the house, and of not trusting themselves—of their hair-trigger reactions to everything and everyone around them.
We’ve been with them as they’ve contemplated entering psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, including confronting their own religious, cultural, and moral beliefs regarding what the medicines might do to their minds and to their souls. Then, most intimately, we’ve been with them as they’ve gone through their sessions with ayahuasca or MDMA—whether in therapists’ offices, in living rooms, or on ceremonial grounds—as they are unfolding.
In April of 2016, we joined veterans Michael Cooley, Matt Kahl, and Ryan LeCompte, whose organization Veterans for Entheogenic Therapy facilitates the participation of veterans with PTSD in ayahuasca ceremonies, in Colorado. We filmed both they and their families ahead of Cooley and Kahl’s first-ever ayahuasca ceremonies, which were held that weekend at Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth in Florida.
We captured both the hopes and fears they had about taking the medicine, including how it would impact their wives and children. And once in Florida, we filmed the healing ceremonies themselves, showing up close the transformational effects it had on these long-suffering vets.
We then returned to visit the vets five months and again 15 months later to see how their lives’ had unfolded since, in particular to learn of the impact their respective healing journeys had been having on them and on their families.
We expect to release From Shock to Awe in the fall of 2017.
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