Higher Ground

Higher Ground

Higher Ground

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, Norbert Leo Butz, Dagmara Dominczyk, John Hawkes, Bill Irwin, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Donna Murphy
Director: Vera Farmiga
Genre: Drama
Rated: M
Running Time: 112 minutes

Synopsis: Vera Farmiga's directorial debut, Higher Ground, is set against the backdrop of the Sixties and expertly depicts the landscape of a tight-knit spiritual community. Inspired by the resonant memoir from Carolyn Briggs (who also wrote the screenplay), the film is an exquisite study of one woman's internal struggle with the primary love relationships in her life.

Release Date: 6th of October, 2011

Director's Statement

I'm pressing on the upward way,
New heights I'm gaining every day;
Still praying as I'm onward bound,
"Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."
I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I'll pray till heav'n I've found,
"Lord plant my feet on higher ground."

Lyrics to the hymn "Higher Ground," written by Johnson Oatman, Jr.
(Bible reference, Philippians 3:14)

Becoming a mother has changed me as an artist and storyteller. Now that I am asked so many questions by my children, I have never been more sure of not knowing the answers. I read Carolyn S. Briggs' memoir, This Dark World, and was touched by her testimony, its candor, humor, and honesty about the very topic of "not knowing." Her journey of self-discovery resonated with me on every level as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend, and a mother.

I am also a sucker for a good love story. Our story follows a twenty-year span of all the love relationships in Corinne's life. It stacks and studies the four tiers of love: agape, eros, philia and storge [unconditional love, romantic love, love of family and friends, fond affection]. It was especially relevant and unique to me in the way it represents female friendship-as a refuge in harmony, not conflict or competition, as is often represented between women in film. While the men in the story are also full, rich characters, the story stresses that love between women is important. We see in each other the woman that we would love to be.

I thought this had the makings of an unusual and important film. The choices and truths it explores are universal: we're all seekers, longing for meaning. We all want a better sense of self. We all, on some level or another, experience moments full of doubt and questioning, feeling disappointed or disillusioned, in need of clarity. Why not throw all these notions up on the screen and see what sticks?

The film asks: is it possible for faith and doubt to coexist? What is a healthy soul? What holds us back from inner growth? Christianity is the "location" of the film, not the subject, concern, or issue. The film could have been set just as easily in a variety of faiths or cultures. I have a deep respect for all religions; I'm most familiar with Christianity. I did not want to make a film about the rights and wrongs of religion. I wanted to be reverent and respectful, and I did not want to infect the story with bias. It is about those moments in life where you lose sight of who you are, what you believe, and where you are going. Those moments of stumbling. The film is about finding your footing, finding higher ground.

"Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart. And try to love the questionsthemselves." - Rainer Maria Rilke