Opens on Friday in New York and Los Angeles.
Bhutto – Trailer
Directed by Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara; written by Mr. O’Hara; music by Mader, Herb Graham Jr., Stewart Copeland and Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari; produced by Mr. Baughman, Mark Siegel and Arleen Sorkin; released by First Run Features. Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes.
“An informed and informative documentary that acts as a quick primer for nearly 40 years of Pakistani history and presents an incredible, and incredibly complex, story of a unique political figure.” FSR
“The events surrounding Benazir Bhutto‘s life play out like some particularly lurid, R-rated action flick. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the charismatic father and Pakistani prime minister, is overthrown by a rival, jailed and executed (the rival, Gen. Zia Ul Haq, later dies in a mysterious plane explosion). One of Benazir’s brothers is poisoned, killer unknown. Another brother is murdered in a confrontation with police, allegedly without provocation. Bhutto’s husband is accused of corruption, jailed for years, but never convicted of any crime. Bhutto herself is in and out of jail, in and out of exile, serves two terms as her country’s prime minister, and is finally assassinated in 2007, assailant unclear.” Miller-McCune
“Benazir Bhutto had a life that makes fiction pale by comparison. When writer Tariq Ali says, characterizing the tale of her charismatic but cursed family, “the whole story has strong elements of a Greek tragedy,” he is not telling the half of it.
As “Bhutto,” the thorough and involving documentary on her life conveys, Benazir was a formidable personality all by herself. The first woman to head a Muslim state, twice Pakistan’s prime minister, assassinated Dec. 27, 2007, when she returned from exile to try for a third term, Benazir was rarely less than remarkable.
Though “Bhutto” doesn’t shy away from the controversies surrounding its subject, it is very much on Benazir’s side. Directors Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara have gotten on-camera cooperation from Benazir’s sister, her three children and her widower, Pakistan’s current President Asif Ali Zardari.
Plus the film made extensive use of audiotapes, never before aired publicly, that journalist Linda Bird Francke made with Benazir while working with her on her autobiography, “Daughter of Destiny.”
Yet “Bhutto” also takes pains to include an interview with Benazir’s niece Fatima, the daughter of her murdered brother Murtaza and a woman who offers a withering critique of her assassinated aunt. She has also accused widower Zardari, who had the nickname of “Mr. Ten Percent” because of alleged corruption during his wife’s first term, of continued dishonesty and worse.
While getting to the bottom of these disputes is not in the cards for “Bhutto,” what this film does best is offer a crash course in the ultra-turbulent history of Pakistan, the second-largest Muslim country in the world and with a reported nuclear arsenal of 80 to 100 weapons.
Benazir’s father was a major player in that history, memorably physically tearing up an agreement with India during a U.N. debate. When President Kennedy told Zulfikar he’d place him in his cabinet if he were an American, the Pakistani leader responded, “If I was an American, I would be in your place.”
When Benazir was born, her parents went into mourning because she was not a boy. Benazir overcame this obstacle, the first of many, and became so adept at politics and so close to her father, who founded the Pakistan Peoples Party, that he defied tradition and named her his political heir.
Her extensive involvement in government meant that Benazir had little time for a personal life, so she took the unusual step of being part of an arranged marriage because remaining a single woman would have hampered her political career.
“Bhutto” says the union blossomed into a love match and the sadness Zardari demonstrates in his interview segments is an emotion that all viewers of this look at Benazir’s tragic life will share.”Los Angles Times
“Bhutto,” a documentary about Benazir Bhutto, the two-time prime minister of Pakistan who was killed while campaigning in 2007, packs an impressive amount of information about Bhutto, her family and Pakistani history into its 111 minutes. If nothing else, the directors, Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara, deserve praise for devoting this kind of attention to a foreign leader and to the internal politics of another country (as opposed to how those politics affect the United States).
The film’s style can make the acquisition of all that data a slightly exhausting experience. Mr. Baughman is a political consultant who owns a direct-mail marketing company, and it feels as if the techniques of his day job are at work in “Bhutto.” Explanatory graphics and titles move by a little too quickly, and the film never stops talking: the voices of interview subjects, newscasts and Bhutto herself are woven into a nearly nonstop audioscape.
The emotions that “Bhutto” arouses — admiration, anger, sorrow — are blunted by a perhaps inevitable frustration. While the film gives us a strong sense of Bhutto’s personality and strength, largely through interviews with her Western friends and colleagues, it can only suggest the daily family and political machinations that were her reality, and it leaves us with no clear sense of the truth of the corruption charges that dogged her.”New York Times