‘Bhutto’ to screen in Pakistan

Last week, Bhutto, the documentary on former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, made its Canadian debut at Hot Docs, after a successful run at Sundance earlier this year. Realscreen spoke with director Duane Baughman and producer Mark Siegel about the film's upcoming debut in Pakistan and what they hope audiences take away from Bhutto's legacy.
May 12, 2010

Come this June, Bhutto, the U.S. documentary on former Pakistani Prime Minster Benazir Bhutto, will hit screens in Pakistan. One of the few U.S. documentaries to get Pakistani distribution, the opening of Bhutto in three cities (Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore) is on the verge of being finalized for June 21, what would have been Benazir Bhutto’s 57th birthday.

‘[There's] a lot of controversy surrounding it and it’s going to be a very interesting time,’ says director Duane Baughman of the opening in Pakistan. ‘Mark [Siegel, producer] and I both hope to be there. We’ll probably drag some press in tow as well just to capture whatever is going to happen.’

The film is a heartbreaking but hopeful look at Bhutto’s fascinating and inspiring life, from her childhood growing up as the eldest daughter of Pakistan’s then Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto; to her education outside of her country at Harvard College and Oxford University, her leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party and her fight for democracy in her country, which ended with her assassination in 2007.

Siegel was a good friend of Bhutto, who handled her business in the U.S., and when Baughman called him up hours after her death to ask him to work on a documentary about her life, he was not ready. Three months later he revisited the idea and started work with Baughman, contacting her family for interviews.

‘My fascination, as someone who wanted to make a film, [was with] all of the unrecognized and unrewarded things that she represented,’ says Baughman, who was set to work with Siegel on Bhutto’s third run for Prime Minister when she was murdered. Baughman felt that if he did not recognize this opportunity to share her legacy, fighting against terrorism and for freedom in her often corrupt country, then he was also missing an opportunity to find justice for her.

In the end, the interviews with Bhutto’s children, husband and sister that appear in this film are the only interviews they’ve given since her death. At one point in the film, when Bhutto’s husband, current Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, talks about the birth of his son tears come to his eyes. ‘It’s extraordinary,’ says Siegel of that footage. ‘I don’t know how people are going to react to that in Pakistan.’

The film, which is also opening in parts of Europe and Iran in June, was two and a half years in the making and is still transforming as the UN investigates Bhutto’s murder. The filmmakers are constantly changing the ending of the film as more information comes to light.

As for what the filmmakers hope to see audiences take away from the film, Siegel says, ‘I think it’s important for the world to know there is a modern Islam. She understood the dangers to her but she felt it was her mission to fight for democracy and to fight for this modern view of Islam. And she paid the ultimate price for it.’

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.