REVISITING THE DOCUMENTARIES: "BHUTTO" Image

When it comes to love, war and filmmaking, everyone has an opinion. But no matter what your sentiments about the late Benazir Bhutto, no one can deny Bhutto’s personal sacrifices for her country.

Directors Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara’s award winning documentary, “BHUTTO,” is a spellbinding portrait of the beautiful and enigmatic leader who at the age of thirty-five, became the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim country.

Born on June 21, 1953, Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007. Her murderers remain unknown, and at large.

Bhutto’s legacy began with her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Fourth President and ninth Prime Minister of Pakistan, the charismatic and flamboyant patriarch was both loved and hated. He is primarily remembered for developing nuclear weaponry, establishing the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and for his execution ordered by Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq— the General he appointed as Chief of Army Staff.

Recognizing his eldest child’s potential for inheriting his political mantle, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s selection of Benazir over eldest son Murtaza caused a life-long feud between the two siblings that only ended when the increasingly militant Murtaza Bhutto was killed on September 20, 1996, during an alleged altercation with police. Much like Benazir Bhutto’s own violent death, there was much speculation about exactly who engineered the murder. To add to the ambiguity, many believed it was Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto’s husband, and now president of Pakistan.

Baughman and O’Hara’s 111-minute epic explores the rise, fall, and endurance of the Bhutto family against a backdrop of war, strife and political upheaval. Interwoven between riveting newsreel, the opinions of family, friends, witnesses and harsh critics, history is tempered by the vibrant, unlikely, love story shared by Bhutto and Zardari. Endlessly smeared by their enemies as “the princess and the playboy,” the Bhutto-Zardari marriage was arranged— yet persisted because of sincere adoration.

Aside from the fact that this documentary moves with the lightening-speed, intensity and suspense of a psychological thriller, what sets it apart from others of its ilk is the filmmakers’ uncanny ability to capture subtle nuances in Bhutto’s character that are previously unexposed. In so doing, they raise questions that provoke and linger. Was the mesmerizing Benazir Bhutto a killer, martyr or insane? Was she a feminist, traditionalist or simply a master of diplomacy and disguise?

Did Bhutto ally with Osama bin Laden and support al-Qaeda? Was Ronald Reagan financially supporting Muhammad Zia ul-Haq? Did George W Bush knowingly support al-Quaeda and the Taliban when he befriended General Pervez Musharraf? What really drove Benazir Bhutto to sacrifice her own life, and the life of her husband, for the sake of democracy in the most perilous of all countries?

Much like Bhutto herself, Baughman and O’Hara’s masterpiece opens the door to speculation and promise, with a legacy that transcends time.

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  1. Chloe Lehman says:

    Great documentary and review. Thanks much!

  2. Danni Lindquist says:

    Nice! Love writing that stays with you like this. 100% agreed that “Bhutto” is a great documentary, that’s factually accurate and fascinating. I hope that
    Mr. Baughman continues to make films.

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