I had the pleasure of screening the documentary Beyond Belief last Saturday night at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Director Beth Murphy followed the lives of two Bostonian women, Susan and Patti, whose husbands were victims of the September 11th attacks. Both widowed women had young children—and babies on the way.
Yet despite the obvious despair of it all, Susan and Patti decided to use their grief for good. They channeled their commonalities—mother, widower, survivor—to create Beyond the 11th, an charitable foundation focused on raising money for other widows. What makes this initiative so fundamentally different, and, in turn, so inspirational? Beyond the 11th supports widows from Afghanistan, the training ground of Susan and Patti’s husbands’ murderers.
I’ve been thinking a lot about shared experiences lately. Now more than ever, it seems that people are sick of defining themselves by their differences. Because really, focusing on differences and pain points without taking time to recognize similarities breeds frustration. And anger. And then there you are, carrying around a big cloud of steam that’s constantly burning through your body and erupting through your words—or your fists, or your trigger finger.
Susan and Patti’s story has made me sit back and question what similarities I might share with people who are defined as my “enemy” (whatever that means…). Here are a few things I know about myself:
- I love those hot summer days when clouds suddenly fill the sky and burst all over the ground for ten minutes, then give way to a crystal blue sky.
- I’m horrified and overwhelmingly disturbed by the details of pregnancy (um, particularly the delivery part), and the only thing that gives me a brief moment of comfort is the thought of kissing my baby’s soft little pudgy feet.
- Whenever I think about my parents getting older, even if it's only for 30 seconds, my eyes well up and my heard skips beats.
- I can watch an entire movie just by listening to the soundtrack.
Sure, these are just little tidbits, but I wonder if I share them with, say, a woman from Rio? A white man from Georgia? A young professional from Tokyo? Or even a co-worker, from the next cube over?
If Susan and Patti, two women who endured such heavy blows, could flip the conversation into one focused on shared experience and common purpose, I’m confident that we can do the same here in the U.S. Or anywhere. Personally, I’m sick of being boxed in. Of not smiling at someone on the street because I assume they’re judging me. Of hearing about all the things that make Americans vastly different from every other group of people on the globe. People are people are people.
Just a few off-the-cuff notes and observations from the screening:
- Director Beth Murphy, founder of Principle Pictures, has been directing, producing, and reporting for documentaries and television & radio news for 18 years. She’s also a BU alum (like me!) and has a fierce fashion sense.
- Beth, Susan, Patti, cinematorgraphers Kevin Belli and Sean Flynn, and soundtrack composer Evren Celimli were all in attendance and answered a plethora of questions. Not only was it a pleasure to see Susan and Patti’s beautiful smiles in person, but it was also quite uplifting to see three men contribute so greatly to the project.
- I didn’t realize that women are still wearing burqas in Afghanistan. Watching them float through crowds like ghosts made my heard sink. I also didn’t know that Afghan widows must leave behind their children if they wish to remarry. Very upsetting stuff.
- Beyond Belief… the name of the film is still flipping around in my head. What does it mean? Beyond believing in anything? The situation was beyond belief? Susan and Patti took the notion of belief to a new level? Perhaps I can find out what the director had in mind… but in the meantime, what do you think?
Be sure to check out the trailer.
And more information from the MFA on showtimes and tickets.
Showings begin Saturday, March 1, at 12pm.