As long as critics keep going gaga for fussy documentary experiments like Manda Bala and Zoo, the pretentious way those films obfuscate reality with empty style will continue to gather traction. Beyond Belief, a documentary about two 9/11 widows who started a charity in an effort to enrich the lives of women in Afghanistan, begins with an inexplicable show of overlapping audio and sinister crawls through suburban living rooms, suggesting the influence of shamsters like Robinson Devor. Thankfully, director Beth Murphy gets this foul technique out of her system right away, settling for a completely unadorned approach to her subject matter. After the death of their husbands, Susan Retik and Patti Quigley refused to accept resentment and retaliation, and in their efforts to help and connect with Afghan widows they reveal a profound understanding for the cultural and historical chain of cause and effect. Murphy reveres Retik and Quigley’s un-Bushy humanist commitment, and Beyond Belief is a poignant portrait of how these women cope with their roles as 9/11 widows. Though Retik and Quigley’s articulation of their kindhearted mission feels naïve (their agenda brings to mind a Sally Struthers Christian Children’s Fund advert), this is something Murphy recognizes, and the film is most powerful when it follows the women to Afghanistan, where the suffering of Afghan widows deepens their perspective on human relationships.
- Film Sales Company
- 96 min
- Beth Murphy
- Susan Retik, Patti Quigley
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