Our Interview with Documentary Filmmaker
(DaRK PaRTY isn’t afraid to admit that we shed quite a few tears while watching the 9/11 documentary “Beyond Belief” (but in a he-man kind of way). You can read our review of the film here. The story is about two 9/11 widows who decide to break out of their grief and reach out to war widows in
DaRK PaRTY: When did you first meet Susan Retik and Patti Quigley and what about them made you want to create "Beyond Belief"?
Beth: I learned about Susan and Patti’s mission to help Afghan war widows through my role on the board of the International Institute of Boston, an organization that helps immigrants and refugees. Immediately, I knew I wanted to tell their story. To me, it was a story that needed to be told. After three years of code red and orange terror alerts coming out of
DP: You chose not to use news footage from
Beth: I knew I personally didn’t want to see this footage again, and I suspected others felt the same. And from a filmmaking perspective, I felt it would detract from -- rather than add to -- the story telling I was trying to achieve. To be honest, it would have been very easy to show footage of the planes hitting the
DP: "Beyond Belief" manages to be heart-wrenching, but without being overly sentimental. How did you balance their grief with their mission and strength?
Beth: Susan and Patti deserve all the credit for that. This is their story told in their own words. And I tried to stay true to that. Of course, they grieve. But they are focused on life after 9/11. They didn’t want to be public figures - but September 11th forced them into that role, and they wanted to use the new voice they’d been given for good.
Beth: The economic divide is about as vast as you can possibly imagine. Susan and Patti are upper middle class women living in the affluent suburbs of the world’s richest superpower. The Afghan widows are the most desperate and destitute members of an already impoverished nation.
After their tragedies, Susan and Patti received incredible support from family, friends, and, in fact, an entire nation. Cards, presents, dinners arrived daily – sometimes overwhelming them and their families. Despite their losses, life continued in much the same way it had before the deaths of their husbands: Their children continued classes at the same schools. They lived in the same houses. They had no financial hardships to consider.
The opposite is true for an Afghan woman who loses a husband. She is forced to experience the unraveling of her entire life. There is no life insurance in
As Susan says in the film, “I just could not imagine living in
DP: Patti and Susan were amazed and awed at the poverty of
Beth: I was astonished to see so many women still covered head-to-toe in the all-encompassing burqa. With just a little piece of mesh to see out of, women in
Today, with the Taliban once again gaining strength, rights are once again being eroded. One of the most horrific signs of this is the fact that self-immolation cases are rising dramatically. To save themselves from chronic abuse, poverty, forced marriages and a life without education or human rights, women are setting themselves on fire, believing that burning to death is a better alternative to their current existence. In
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