In Beyond Belief, documentary filmmaker Beth Murphy recounts the story of two women who both lost their husbands in the September 11 terrorist attacks but found a way to turn their tragedy into triumph. Gayle talks to Beth about the inspiration behind the film and its enduring message of hope.
Beth says the film follows the journey of two 9/11 widows, Susan and Patti, who were both pregnant at the time their husbands were killed. After being introduced by a mutual friend, Susan and Patti developed a strong friendship, united by their shared experience of loss and grief.
As the two women worked to take care of their families and put their lives back together, they began to hear news about how Afghanistan was a breeding ground for terrorists. Beth says Susan saw an Oprah show on the plight of Afghan women, which inspired her to learn more and take action.
Susan and Patti decided to create a charitable organization called Beyond the 11th to help raise awareness about the women in Afghanistan, specifically widows and those affected by terrorism and war. It was around the time that Susan and Patti were organizing a fundraiser for their charity—a bike ride from Ground Zero to Boston in honor of their husbands—that Beth says she first met the two women.
Beth says she approached Susan and Patti about creating a documentary on their story because she felt the two had "so much to teach us about connecting with others." In May 2006, the three women traveled to Afghanistan to meet with the women they were trying to help and witness their way of life firsthand.
Despite language and cultural differences, Beth says Susan and Patti truly connected with the Afghan widows. "They were able to overcome all of those barriers by speaking the language of motherhood, widowhood—and it was a really beautiful thing to watch," she says.
Beth says she hopes her documentary will serve to inspire more people to want to reach out and connect with others around the world. "My goal is to generate this sense of community and I hope that the film helps people to want to be able to connect with others," she says. After Beyond Belief generated strong support at the sixth annual TriBeCa film festival in New York, Beth says she hopes it will reach bigger audiences in the coming months.