New Emissary

Bhutto Back—in Theatres

Benazir Bhutto is back in Pakistan with a new film that’s receiving a lot of attention.

Earlier this week Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yousuf Gilani, announced the recipients of the first-ever Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed (martyr) Award, in honour of the assassinated former leader. One well-known winner of the prize is Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, in the democracy category. (The award is also given out for human rights, women’s empowerment and social causes.)

Meanwhile, on a related note a new documentary, aptly titled Bhutto and centred on the former leader, is out now in theatres across Pakistan, raising some anticipated controversy (for supposedly being biased in favour of its subject) but also getting good reviews from critics and audiences. Kaiser Rafiq, the director of Universe Cineplex Karachi recently told NDTV news that Bhutto ‘has received a good response’ and is attracting large audiences. The film is currently playing in theatres in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi. The Associated Press of Pakistan also reported that the film seemed to be drawing in younger crowds on its big opening day when ‘large numbers of students of various universities were witnessed in long queues for buying ticket for the documentary.’

Bhutto, which actually debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival with some of her family even attending the premiere, is a work comprised of various elements including interviews with Bhutto, her family and other experts along with news clips and video and audio recordings. The Hollywood Reporter, in its review of the film, stated that the directors’ editing of all of the ‘wide-ranging material’ was effective, resulting in a ‘comprehensive and compelling narrative.’ However the movie magazine was also careful to point out that the film skirts ‘the overtly hagiographic,’ thus making it a ‘clearly favourable treatment of the Pakistani leader's mixed legacy that should enthral supporters, but may frustrate more incisive viewers.’

Meanwhile, another industry magazine, Variety, was substantially more enthusiastic about Bhutto’s objectivity, calling it ‘an even-handed history’ that revolves around ‘a person who…ended up dying for the cause of her nation's hobbled democracy.’ Variety also predicted that the film, ‘a worthy portrait of a phenomenal woman,’ will have a ‘long afterlife.’

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Personally, after reading an article this month published in the Huffington Post, by Duane Baughman and Mark Siegel, the director and producers of the film, I don’t know exactly how much the goal of objectivity was in mind when they were making Bhutto. But I can certainly agree with any hopes they had in mind:

‘As the producers of the documentary on (Bhutto’s) barrier-breaking life that is about to open in Pakistan and around the world, we echo the words of the UN and hope our film contributes to bringing the people of Pakistan what they so poignantly deserve—truth and justice.’