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The Independent Critic

Susan Retik, Patti Quigley
Beth Murphy
97 Mins.
Principle Pictures/Alive Mind Media/The Film Sales Co.
 "Beyond Belief" Review 
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On September 11, 2001...


What are you thinking?

Did you just take a deep breath? Perhaps you are thinking "Not another 9/11 documentary?"

Keep reading.

On September 11, 2001, the lives of Susan Retik and Patti Quigley changed forever. The two women, both soccer moms living in affluent Boston neighborhoods, lost their husbands during the 9/11 attacks. Rather than turning their grief inward, the two women externalized their grief into actions that almost defy belief...Both Retik and Quigley joined forces in an effort to help the widowed women of Afghanistan, the country where those who had killed their husbands had been trained.

"Beyond Belief" documents the inspiring journey of these two women as their healing arms reach, quite literally, around the world in an effort to empower women whose lives have been torn apart by war, poverty and oppression...factors they believe to be the root cause of terrorism. Along the way, Retik and Quigley find friendship, healing and hope.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature during the 2008 Indianapolis International Film Festival, "Beyond Belief" is unlike any other 9/11 film you have seen. "Beyond Belief" acknowledges the unfathomable tragedy of that day, but rests almost solely on the power of that each of us possesses to make a difference in the world and promote global healing that starts within.

It is possible to quibble with director Beth Murphy's shining the light a tad too brightly on Retik and Quigley during their Afghanistan trip when, in fact, the stories of the Afghani widows is more compelling. While the losses Retik and Quigley experienced were certainly tragic, both women live in a country in which there were systems of support and empowerment to enable their healing. In Afghanistan, on the other hand, women are largely considered second-class citizens and even the thought of marrying again carries with it the knowledge that the women would have to give up their children to do so.

While this modest quibble is perhaps valid, "Beyond Belief" is meant to center on Retik and Quigley and the foundation they started together, Beyond the 11th. In many ways developed like the Grameen Foundation, Beyond the 11th is designed to give Afghani widows a hand up not a hand out through actions such as assisting them in starting their own small business.

It is devastating, on a certain level, to watch "Beyond Belief" because it seems that these two women have learned something that even our nation's leaders have failed to learn...that peace is possible through community, empowerment and compassion rather than hate and revenge.

I admit it. I hesitated with "Beyond Belief." Had I not found myself on the jury for documentaries during this year's festival, I'd have likely skipped the film thinking "The last thing I need is another 9/11 documentary."

I'd have been wrong. The stories of Susan Retik and Patti Quigley are, perhaps, the most important stories yet to come out of 9/11 because they offer hope that everyday people like Susan, Patti, you and I may be the ones who really end the war on terror the old fashioned way...with love, compassion, healing and and the simple acknowledgement that everything we do impacts one another.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic