'Power', ' Corruption', 'Legacy', and 'Dynasty' seemed to me the most prominent points jumping out of the film 'Bhutto'. It showed Benazir as a woman of steel. In a personal capacity I'm sure she was , but as a Pakistani I found it hard to be taken in by the 'darling of the west' style glamorization of her political figure persona.
A cozy crowd gathered at 'Frontline', a media club that champions independent journalism to watch the film 'Bhutto'.
The beginning of the film was visually impressive; statistics in 3D graphics superimposed on real images of destitution displaying the diverse types of poverty in Pakistan. Shocking and true as it may be, perhaps they could have tried to break the American style of stereotyping by showing, limited by all means but nonetheless the existing (and growing) side of the middle class.
Even a few images of urban cities (places I'm sure the producers of the film are well acquainted with) would have aided in showing a fuller picture of Pakistan but perhaps the movie would lose its shock factor.
So the movie began with historical postcards - Pakistans terminally capricious relations with the United States, the Islamic Qadeer Khan nuclear bomb, relations with India, the timeless sinister character of Zia and his policies snowball affect being suffered by Pakistan today.
Prominent people were interviewed for the film including President Asif Ali Zardari, son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, daughters Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, and sister Sanam Bhutto.
Other interviewees include authors Tariq Ali ('The Clash of Fundamentalism') and Christina Lamb ('Waiting For Allah'), Victoria Schofield ('Bhutto') as well as former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Benazir's co-author and friend Mark Siegel, diplomat Peter Galbraith, Arianna Huffington, niece Fatima Bhutto, her uncle Ahmed Isphahani and Reza Aslan. There were unprecedented images and sound bites of Benazir Bhutto- it gave a very personalized view of her life. There were also some ironically comical moments such an excerpt of Zia's interview. With images illustrating the most horrificly violent times in Pakistan with public lashing, hangings and stoning while Zia says " I believe in freedom of speech." Or when Tariq Ali talks about the jihadists who were sitting in the white house during the war with the Soviet Union as being called the founding fathers by the American government to which he says "everyone looked around to see which one looks like Benjamin Franklin..."
"It took three years to make the film and the traveling was mostly between the US and Pakistan" said the executive producer Glenn Aveni.
For all its worth, as a woman Benazir was empowered - she walked stiffly, towering, tall and spoke with hawk like intent that came through her speeches. She was a type of enigma who endured endless obstacles; from a teenager to an adult her destiny was outlined. In fact it seemed that the Bhutto destiny was almost a commandment from their father (defeating the very purpose of democracy which they cry as "the best revenge"). The director Duane Baughman, however, put it correctly, that Benazir broke a political and gender glass ceiling that has not even been achieved in the apparently most progressive country namely the United States. But it points to two things- that dynasty as a system still works in Pakistan and that empowerment was limited to her self. Rightly said by Fatima Bhutto she was not a feminist; the Hudood Ordinance was not repealed, the status of women did not improve and really she just contributed to gender norms to gain acceptance in politics - unintentionally perhaps, but the film seemed to expose that it was pure political ambition for power that motivated her. I felt that despite sign posting their flaws, the ending of the film was obnoxiously neat and simplified - slides with accompanying text - a scene of a reserved Bilawal making a speech with text that read "he is the head of PPP and will join politics when he goes back to Pakistan"- a shot of agreements taking place in Pakistan that read "Kerry Lugar Bill - million dollars to be given for schools, education and development".
The ending was a jolt strange enough to question if they thought a sequel may be required to answer all the questions arising from the film, to which Duane Baughman answered that there was a suggestion for a bhutto drama series on HBO. I have to say it made my stomach turn.
There's one thing to be compared to the Kennedy's and its an entirely different thing to feed an inordinate appetite for political vanity- watching that film made me think that their lives were glamorous but deeply tragic, but it also made me think how self indulgent they were. How their politics were mainly just bitterly personal. It pointed to the urgency of moving towards progressive politics- to pay attention and bring to light the type of politics that actually does what its supposed to- serve the people. This isn't to suggest that military dictatorships are the 'best alternative' (purported by many, including Pakistani's themselves) for Pakistan, but that desire for an unadulterated form of democracy should be given attention.
The film had moments of honesty- where her stance as a feminist was questioned, accusations of corruption were mentioned and the internal rocky relations between the Bhuttos was brought to light with opposing views from within the Bhuttos for example-they could have gone further however, been more sincere by mentioning a five year long investigation in to Zardaris corruption by James Maton and how evidence was mounting up only until Zardari gained presidential immunity. But these topics were eased over, touched upon - just the right amount to be able to say that there were varied opinions. It left the western audience sympathizing for her, saying what a great woman she was. And in some ways perhaps she was, but the opposing views were overshadowed by a thespian like celebration of her.
The intent behind the film was a type of eulogy "I was fascinated by her ...shes a living walking contradiction politically and as a human" said Duane and that's exactly how it should be viewed- purely as a personal fascination with Benazir Bhutto and not necessarily a complete and entirely correct depiction of her as political figure- the affects of her policies or the lack thereof.
After watching the film the audience wonders whether things could have been different, that maybe this time she would have worked to undo her mistakes, but third time as it were, certainly wasn't lucky.