Tribeca ’07: Beyond Belief (review)

I want my life to be more than that — I want to move beyond the hatred of that day.

Susan Retik and Patti Quigley are two suburban Boston moms who met after tragedy struck: their husbands were both killed on 9/11, both passengers on doomed airplanes. And they channeled their grief and their anger into Beyond the 11th, the foundation they started to raise money to support war widows in Afghanistan, the half a million women, most of whom cannot read, trapped in a cycle of poverty and desperation. Retik and Quigley are quick to point out — and Beth Murphy’s devastating documentary about the Boston women is quick to show — that they are not giving handouts but a hand up, helping the Afghan women start their own small businesses (such as raising chickens for eggs and meat to eat and to sell). Screening as part of the Tribeca Film Festival’s World Documentary Competition, this powerful film becomes a force much larger than these women, Americans and Afghanis alike who are strong and smart and beautiful in every way. It is a raging, slamming critique of, you know, everything: our culture of violence and aggression that turns the empathy of women like Retik and Quigley into the extraordinary story when it should be the men dropping the bombs or waging tribal war who are “beyond belief.” Both a wildly hopeful glimpse at the possibility of a world where our knee-jerk reaction to trauma is one of compassion instead of one of hatred and a discouraging, dispiriting suggestion that we are far, far from such a place, this is a movie that everyone must see, starting with our so-called leaders.

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