“Bhutto”, the new documentary film about the slain Pakistani leader will have a one week screening starting January 28, 2011 at the Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis. Filmmaker and political consultant Duane Baughman created this definitive account one of the most complex and fascinating characters of our time – Benazir Bhutto, the first woman in history to lead a Muslim nation.
Using newly uncovered, never heard in public audio tape, Benazir tells her own story in her own voice. The film features exclusive, heart-wrenching interviews, just three months after her assassination, with her immediate family, including widower soon-to-be President Asif Ali Zardari, son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, daughters Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and Assefa Bhutto Zardari, and sister Sanam Bhutto.
Other interviewees include authors Tariq Ali (“The Clash of Fundamentalisms”) and Christina Lamb (“Waiting For Allah”), Victoria Schofield (“Bhutto”) as well as former U.S. 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.
“This film shows that Benazir Bhutto was a more complex and historically unique figure than people may’ve realized,” says 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, and a responsibility she never sought.”
Educated at Harvard and Oxford, Bhutto’s life changed forever when her father, Pakistan’s first democratically elected president, chose her to carry his political mantle over the family’s eldest son.
In the late ’70s, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was overthrown and executed by his handpicked Army Chief, Benazir swore to avenge her father and restore democracy – or to die trying. Her two terms in power saw acts of courage and controversy as she eradicated polio in Pakistan and stood up for women, while fighting the male-dominated political elite, and a nervous military leadership, while battling accusations of corruption and scandal.
In 2007, with the South Asian country rolling in turmoil and under the thumb of yet another military dictator, Benazir was called back onto the world stage as Pakistan’s best hope for democracy. With her assassination she transcended politics, but left a legacy of simmering controversy and undeniable courage that will be debated for years.
“Like most of the rest of the world, I watched CNN in horror on Dec. 27, 2007, when Benazir Bhutto, the first woman in history to lead a Muslim nation, was blown away by a suicide bomber,” said Baughman. “Millions felt Benazir was the best hope for democracy and progress in that strategically critical nuclear-armed country.
Baughman said he had always wondered how Bhutto managed to defeat seemingly impossible odds against any woman in Pakistan to accomplish what did. Shortly before her death, Baughman was reconnected with Bhutto’s advisor and friend Mark Siegel, who was part of the effort in anticipation of her third rise to power in Pakistan.
“Three days after she died, I watched Mark desperately trying – almost single-handedly – to keep Benazir’s legacy alive by making the rounds on every conceivable news show,” said Baughman. “Before long, we spoke about telling the world Benazir’s story via a documentary film.”
A few months later, Baughman brought a film crew to Dubai to what had been Bhutto’s living room. They listened to three heartbroken children and her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, explain why she was compelled to leave her family and safe confines of self-exile to face death threats and a political hurricane in Pakistan.
The film is a journey of discovery – of both Pakistan and the Bhutto family legacy that is not unlike a classic Greek tragedy of unsolved murders, political intrigue, family feuds, hijackings and poisonings. Bhutto’s own story has the elements of triumph to tragedy.
“I understand better now why the Bhutto’s are called the ‘Kennedy’s of Pakistan’,” said Baughman. “Ironically, at Harvard, her roommate was Bobby Kennedy’s daughter, Kathleen Kennedy.”
But more than the drama of tragedy, Baughman said what made this experience so visceral and unique, was how much a part of it you become when you immerse yourself into a completely different world. Just three days after the crew checked out of the Marriot Islamabad, the entire hotel was blown to the ground by a suicide bomber and a truck full of explosives, killing over 40 people at the end of Ramadan.
“That attack made me realize that Benazir’s story wasn’t as much about a death-too-soon as it was about what we accomplish while we’re here,” he said. “What would you do? Rest in comfort as she could’ve or go back and fight?”
Baughman said as much as the film resonates with the world, he would like it to empower women and young girls everywhere with the message during times when things seemed stacked against you, think of Benazir Bhutto, who came from a country where the law dictates that women come second, and honor killings are legal.
“Yet in her 54 short years, Benazir stared down the dictator who killed her father, restored democracy to her country, and shattered the glass ceiling in Pakistan forever,” he added. “Something that’s never been done in America. From a country feared for its nuclear weapons and Taliban suicide soldiers, came a woman so brave that she made the world take notice. She reminded us that hope can spring from even the most dangerous place on earth.” www.bhuttothefilm.com