Bhutto

Bhutto

Former Pakistani Prime Minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto at her home in Dubai on December 4th, 2004, as seen in BHUTTO, a Duane Baughman film. A First Run Features release. (Photo by Lichfield/Getty Images)

Bhutto (2010)

Opened: 12/03/2010 Limited

Play Dates12/03/2010
Cinema Village...12/03/2010 - 01/06/201135 days
The Nuart12/03/2010 - 12/09/20107 days
Kendall Square...12/17/2010 - 12/24/20108 days
DVD05/10/2011

Trailer: Click for trailer

Genre: Biographical Documentary (English)

Rated: Unrated

Short Synopsis

A recent Sundance world premiere, Bhutto tells the epic story of one of the most fascinating characters of our time -- Benazir Bhutto, the first woman in history to lead a Muslim nation. A favored daughter of the family often called the "Kennedys of Pakistan," Benazir was elected Prime Minister after her father was overthrown and executed by his own military. Her two terms in power saw extreme acts of courage and controversy as she tried to clean up Pakistan's corrupt political culture while quelling the fires of radical Islam that threaten to engulf the region. A fascinating array of archival footage and interviews with family members and leading experts brings life to this tale of Shakespearean dimension in the country the Economist calls "the World's most dangerous place."

Long Synopsis

BHUTTO is an epic story about the first woman in history to lead a Muslim nation - Pakistan.

TIME Magazine called Pakistan "the most dangerous place in the world" with good reason: the 6th largest country on the planet (population: 180 million), Pakistan is bordered by Iran, Afghanistan and long-time rival India, with whom it has engaged in a decades-long and smoldering conflict. Pakistan is riven with often violent internal dissent between various tribes and political factions. And Pakistan remains the world's only nuclear-armed Muslim nation.

Benazir Bhutto was born into a wealthy family that has become Pakistan's dominant political dynasty. Often referred to as the "Kennedys of Pakistan," the Bhuttos share a painful history of triumph and tragedy, played out on an international stage.

Educated at Harvard and Oxford, Benazir's life changed forever when her father, Pakistan's first democratically elected president, chose Benazir, instead of his eldest son, to carry his political mantle. After her father was overthrown and executed by his handpicked Army Chief, Benazir swore to avenge him and to restore democracy - or die trying.

Benazir lived a life of contradictions. She broke the Islamic glass ceiling, but was wed in a traditional arranged marriage to Karachi playboy Asif Ali Zardari. Her two terms in power saw acts of courage and controversy as she restored democracy, eradicated polio, helped advance the status of women, and fought extremism, all the while battling politically-charged accusations of corruption and cronyism.

In 2007, with the 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 behind a legacy of simmering controversy and undeniable courage that will be debated for years.

Filmmaker's Statement

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. Millions felt Benazir was the best hope for democracy and progress in that strategically critical nuclear-armed country. I always wondered how Benazir managed to defeat the impossible odds stacked against ANY woman in Pakistan and accomplish what she was able to accomplish.

As an American political consultant, my experience is both domestic and international. Before Benazir's death a close colleague of mine reconnected me with Benazir's advisor and close friend Mark Siegel, who had been pulling together American consultants on her behalf in anticipation of her 3rd rise to power in Pakistan. Three days after she died, I watched Mark desperately trying -- almost singlehandedly -- to keep Benazir's legacy alive by making the rounds on every conceivable news show. Before long, we spoke about telling the world Benazir's story via a documentary film.

A few months later, myself and a film crew would find ourselves sitting in Dubai in what had been Benazir's living room, listening to her three heartbroken children and her shaken widower, Asif Ali Zardari, explain why Benazir was compelled to leave her family and the safe confines of a cushy selfexile to march back into Pakistan to face death threats and a political hurricane. Along the way on the amazing journey of making this movie, I discovered Pakistan and learned that Benazir's family story was something out of a Greek tragedy with unsolved murders, political intrigue, family feuds, hijackings, poisonings -- you name it. Her story had all the elements from triumph to tragedy.

I understand better now why the Bhutto's are called the "Kennedy's of Pakistan." Ironically, at Harvard, her roommate was Bobby Kennedy's daughter, Kathleen Kennedy. But 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. Three days after checking out of the Marriot Islamabad, where the crew and myself had stayed during filming and had gotten to know the staff, 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. What would you do? Rest in comfort as she could've or go back and fight?

As much as this film resonates with the entire world, I would like it to empower women and young girls everywhere with the message: If there are times when you think the world is against you, think of Benazir, 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. 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. 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.