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Where EAST meets the Northwest

PIONEERING PAKISTANI. Bhutto, a documentary about the assassination of two-time Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her transformation from political messiah to martyr in the eyes of millions, is screening Wednesday, April 6 at 6:00pm as part of the Community Cinema series, presented by Oregon Public Broadcasting and the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. The event is free and open to the public. (Photo courtesy of Yellow Pad Productions)

From The Asian Reporter, V21, #07 (April 4, 2011), page 11.

Bhutto documentary examines the life of the influential Pakistani leader

Bhutto

Directed by Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara

Produced by Duane Baughman, Mark Siegel, and Arleen Sorkin

Screening Wednesday, April 6 at 6:00pm

at the University of Oregon Turnbull Portland Center

70 N.W. Couch Street, Portland

By Julie Stegeman

The Asian Reporter

The hard part about watching the documentary film Bhutto is seeing Benazir Bhutto make decisions to pursue political aims, all the while knowing every one of them is leading inexorably to her assassination in 2007. The upside is the film’s insight into the life and death of a remarkable woman — the first ever to serve as the head of a Muslim-majority nation — as well as the politically tumultuous country of Pakistan.

The film uses archival footage, audio, and photographs of Benazir as well as interviews with family, friends, historians, and others to tell the story of the Pakistani politician’s life. Bhutto opens with the return of Benazir to Pakistan following eight years of life in self-imposed exile. She chose to return to Pakistan despite knowing her life would be at risk, stating, "I do believe Pakistan is under increasing threat of an extremist takeover and to save the country, I believe we must restore democracy."

Benazir was born in 1953, a mere six years after Pakistan became a country, into a family that has been compared to the Kennedy family in the U.S. — both are important political dynasties in their respective countries and each family has had more than its share of public tragedy.

Despite the fact that no one came to visit her mother in the hospital after she gave birth to Benazir because they were disappointed she turned out to be a girl, her family was quite progressive in its views of the era’s gender constraints.

Benazir said of her father, "He enabled me to appreciate that a woman is not a lesser creature."

Her sense of self was further shaped by attending college in the U.S. "It was the first time I was in an environment where women were treated as full participants in society," she said.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir’s father, was a great influence on her life. He was politically very active, founding the Pakistan Peoples Party and serving in several roles in the government of Pakistan, including president and prime minister. His overthrow by a military coup and his subsequent imprisonment and execution had a profound impact on Benazir, enflaming her desire to become active in politics herself.

Before his death, Zulfikar passed the mantle of his political party to Benazir — his oldest child — and not to his oldest son, as was customary and expected.

During the film’s chronicles of the ups and downs of Benazir’s life — the unsolved death of her youngest brother by poison, her election as the youngest and first female prime minister of a Muslim state, her arranged marriage and expanding family — viewers also are shown the effects of U.S. and Soviet involvement in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which eventually spawned the rise of al-Qaeda.

Although the people interviewed in Bhutto seem to primarily be supporters of Benazir and her politics, she does have her detractors. Among them is her niece — the daughter of Murtaza, Benazir’s brother and political rival — who believes Benazir played a role in Murtaza’s unsolved shooting death.

The film also touches on the corruption charges that ended both of Benazir’s terms as prime minister, her difficulties with policy once she was elected, and her troubles with a military that didn’t care to take orders from a woman.

Bhutto presents an engrossing portrait of a brave, charismatic, and driven woman who let nothing — including her gender, prison, and death threats — faze her in her pursuit to lead her country to democracy.

Oregon Public Broadcasting and the University of Oregon (UO) School of Journalism and Communication are offering a free screening of Bhutto, followed by a discussion, on Wednesday, April 6 at 6:00pm. The event takes place at UO’s Turnbull Portland Center, located at 70 N.W. Couch Street in Portland. For more information, call (503) 293-1982 or visit <turnbullcenter.uoregon.edu>. To learn more, visit <www.bhuttothefilm.com>.