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‘Bhutto’ released in Pakistan

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Saadia Khalid

With the true depiction of violence, controversy, and untimely death that remained the regrettable hallmark of the Bhutto legacy, the riveting documentary feature ‘Bhutto’ was released Friday across the country.

The premier show of the documentary would be held at the National Art Gallery (NAG) on June 15. The show is organised by the Ministry of Culture and expected to be attended by the notable political figures of the country.

Benazir Bhutto remains a polarising force in the Muslim world some two years after her death from a suicide attack on December 27, 2007. Hers was a turbulent three-decade run through the storm of Pakistani politics during which Bhutto enjoyed unprecedented outpourings of love and hate, triumph and tragedy, devotion by the people of Pakistan and rejection by the forces who most feared her.

Benazir’s fascinating, oft-wrenching story reads like a Greek tragedy and is captured in the riveting documentary feature Bhutto that has its world premiere in the US Documentary Feature competition at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

A Duane Baughman Film, Bhutto is co-directed by Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Haraernande and produced by Duane Baughman, Arleen Sorkin, Mark Siegel and Amy Berg. The film casts an unblinking lens on the first woman ever elected to lead a Muslim state and delves into the back story of the world’s most strategically important country — Pakistan — the Muslim world’s sole nuclear power, and the epicentre of the international War on Terror.

But as the fast-paced Bhutto makes clear, Benazir Bhutto’s life and reign of power were marked by contradictions and questions as she wrestled with a male-dominated society and an entrenched Establishment leading up to her final act of courage that resulted in her unsolved murder at age 54.

Bhutto opens as Benazir Bhutto is about to walk back into the lions’ den after eight years of self-imposed exile in London, New York and Dubai amid a swirl of politically — motivated corruption charges. The very night of her triumphant return, a double-suicide bombing assassination attempt killed 170 of her supporters. “We will continue to meet the public,” she said defiantly after narrowly escaping. “We will not be deterred.” She would soon be murdered during a political rally attended by over one million of her followers.

After a breathtaking opening flashback, Bhutto serves up an eye-opening dose of Pakistan’s tumultuous 62-year existence, its frequent violent clashes with India, and the Benazir’s own family history that runs deep in the DNA of Pakistan’s feudal past.

Born on June 21, 1953, Bhutto credits her father, the iconic former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, for being “against the gender constraints of my time. My mother told my father in front of me, ‘Why do you want to educate her? No man will want to marry her.’ My father said that boys and girls are equal. He wanted me to have the same opportunities.” After having studied at Harvard and Oxford in anticipation of a quiet life in foreign service, Bhutto was unceremoniously thrust into politics when her father — the first democratically elected leader of Pakistan — was overthrown in a military coup by his hand-picked Army Chief, General Zia ul-Huq.

In April 1979, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in a “judicial assassination.” Bhutto shows us, from that moment on, how Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s eldest child dedicated her life to avenging his death, and restoring not only the Bhutto name, but democracy to Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto won her first election under the banner of her martyred father’s popular Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in 1988, and was removed in a military-backed coup in 1990. She rose again in 1993, but was toppled by the power elite in 1996. She would see both of her beloved brothers die mysteriously at the hand of others, with Shanahwaz the youngest poisoned in France, and Murtaza the first born son, gunned down in a shootout on a Pakistani street. Producer Duane Baughman points out how much Bhutto’s relationship with her father, and his execution, shaped and changed her forever. “At that point she was an unstoppable force. Her life’s purpose became avenging her father’s dream for the people of Pakistan and that started and ended with democracy,” said Baughman. “And the fact that she was a young woman in the Muslim world staring down the same dictator who hanged her father, only makes the story that much more riveting and unbelievable.”

Besides rarely seen extensive interview footage with Benazir Bhutto herself, the film features exclusive, heart-wrenching interviews with her immediate family, including widower President Asif Ali Zardari, son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, daughters Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, and sister Sanam Bhutto, just three months after her assassination.

Other interviewees include authors Tariq Ali (‘The Clash of Fundamentalism’) and Christina Lamb (‘Waiting For Allah’), Victoria Schofield (‘Bhutto’) as well as former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Benazir’s co-author and friend Mark Siegel, diplomat Peter Galbraith, Arianna Huffington, and Reza Aslan.

The film also features never publicly heard before audio tapes of Benazir reflecting on her life’s most intimate and poignant moments, along with a wealth of newly discovered archival footage and news clips of chaotic and disturbing images that marked the years both during and between Benazir Bhutto’s regimes. “This film shows that Benazir Bhutto was a much more complex and historically unique figure than many people may have realised,” believes producer Mark Siegel, an expert on the politics and history of Pakistan. “She was an extraordinary bridge between cultures, continents and religions selflessly accepting a political mantel she never wanted, a responsibility that was thrust upon her.”

“Sacrificing personal happiness to public service, she became an icon of change and hope to half a billion Muslim women around the world. And as a champion of a modern Islam that is tolerant, pluralistic, democratic and innovative with unlimited possibilities for women, she became the Jihadists’ worst nightmare, everything they most feared. What is most fascinating is how much love and hatred this woman generated around the world and the extent to which some would go to destroy her and what she embodied. Politically and personally her life was a plethora of contradictions and contrasts that are captured in this film. Like with John F Kennedy and Anwar Saadat, we will always wonder what she could have accomplished had she lived,” concluded Siegel.

Bhutto, which was produced by Yellow Pad Productions in association with Icon TMI presents a Duane Baughman Film, directed by Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara. Produced by Duane Baughman, Arleen Sorkin, Mark Siegel and Amy Berg. Executive Produced by Glenn Aveni. Co-Produced by Pamela Green, Jarik Van Sluijs, and Darius Fisher. Written by Johnny O’Hara. Music by Mader, Hank Graham Jr. and ‘Dila Teer Bija’ performed by Stewart Copeland and Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari.

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