Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BHUTTO--as in Benazir & family--arrives to further freak us out regarding Pakistan

Pakistan, a troubled country since its inception, is front and center once again in BHUTTO, the new documentary from Duane Baughman (producer/co-director) and Johnny O'Hara (writer/co-director). There's a case to be made that when you divide (or try to) nation states like Korea, Vietnam (the USA -- Civil War, anyone?) or India, generations of dissension and death follow. Pakistan has never recovered from its creation, nor has Bangladesh. India simply continues apace, with its supposed abolition of its caste system proving too often fake. (Wikileaks might focus its concentration for a time on this part of our troubled globe.)

In Bhutto, Baughman (left) and O'Hara (below, right) focus their concentration primarily on the cool and beautiful, intelligent and commanding Benazir (shown on poster, above, and at bottom), the eldest child of former Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who, though educated abroad, returned to her country (again and again) and, as Prime Minister, continued trying to achieve the goals of her father. Their film begins with what appears to be an assassination attempt, tracks back to Benazir's and her family's history, brings us up to that beginning point -- and then moves on to further death and disarray.

The filmmakers are clearly in Benazir's corner, so what we get is a certain amount of hagiography, even though they do interview, though not at length, her niece, daughter of her late and deeply estranged brother, who died under circumstances still mysterious, the fault for which the niece lays pretty directly at Benazir's feet. Mention, too, is made of the charges of corruption leveled at Benazir, then later dropped by Pakistani President (military near-dictator and Benazir's biggest political rival) Pervez Musharraf (shown below), perhaps to coax Benazir back to Pakistan, where she could more easily be "taken care of" (my conjecture). I wish we had learned more about these corruption charges. Perhaps later. (Wikileaks again, please!)

As this history and tale unfold, we hear a lot from the likes of one of the lady's best friends throughout her education and career, Peter Galbraith; from her daughters; from writers/scholars such as Resa Aslan and Tariq Ali; even some words from one in our penultimate administration's stable of incompetents and liars, Condoleezza Rice (shown below).

By far the most interesting and even moving segments feature the man -- playboy Asif Zardari, shown below -- to whom Benazir wed in an arranged marriage that appears to have "taken" quite spectacularly, blossoming into a family filled with love and support. And wealth. Zardari, said to be among the richest men in the country, is now also its President.

Consistently interesting and challenging, the film proves an education of sorts, slanted and/or colored as it may be. You come away from it with renewed respect for, and plenty of unanswered questions about, Benazir and her bunch -- and with a deepening sense of tragedy regarding the future of Pakistan. The filmmakers tack on a number of updates at the end of their movie, which, I suspect, are meant to reassure us. I'm not.

Bhutto opens this Friday, Dec. 3, at New York's Cinema Village and Landmark's NuArt in Los Angeles. A number of further playdates have been lined up by the film's distributor, First Run Features. Click here and scroll down to learn if your city is among these.

No comments: