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"Bhutto" (2010)

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Cover photo from Bhutto film (2010)

Bhutto, a documentary about the life of Benazir Bhutto

Film Review: "Bhutto" (2010)

The documentary film "Bhutto," directed by Duane Baughman and Johnny O'Hara, provides an intimate and sympathetic view of the life of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto served as prime minister from 1988 to 1990, and then again from 1993 to 1997. She was in Pakistan campaigning for a third term in 2007 when she was assassinated. In a somewhat haunting touch, much of the narration is in the late politician's own voice.

The film is very engaging, skilfully mixing still photographs, video clips and interviews with Bhutto's friends and family. The western voices include Arianna Huffington, David Frost, Kathleen Kennedy, Condoleezza Rice, and others.

As mentioned above, this is generally a very sympathetic view of Benazir Bhutto, the first woman elected to lead a Muslim nation. In fact, the film seems to downplay or even dismiss out of hand the corruption charges against Bhutto and her husband, current president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari. While the charges that led to Bhutto's dismissal during her first term seem to have been trumped up, those around her second term appear to more credible, but "Bhutto" defends the couple and quickly moves on.

The other major charge against Benazir and her husband, which is voiced by Benazir's niece Fatima but then overridden, is that the couple was complicit in the assassination of Benazir's older brother. The film makes no mention of the fact that even Benazir Bhutto's own mother believed that the prime minister was implicated. A more even-handed approach to these charges would have made "Bhutto" feel less like a white-wash job, and more like history.

That said, however, this documentary is well worth watching. From her childhood to her studies at Harvard and Oxford to the ups and downs of her political life, Benazir Bhutto's biography is fascinating. She may not have been quite the innocent victim portrayed in "Bhutto," but she certainly was a fearless leader, and one of the most inspiring women of the modern era.

For more information, see a review by Jennifer Mertin, the About.com Guide to Documentaries: "Benazir - Movie Review."

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