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Bhutto - Part of the Women, Power and Politics Season at The Tricycle

Bhutto - Part of the Women, Power and Politics Season at The Tricycle

Issue 73 October 2010


Review by Arooj Ismail


Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara’s documentary “Bhutto” endeavors to provide insight into the multi-faceted and layered controversy that surrounded the political career and life of Benazir Bhutto. Inspired to tell the ‘whole story’, the documentary’s main shortcoming was its somewhat Eurocentric and veneered account of Bhutto’s role in Pakistan. For me, as a Pakistani, the documentary fails to encapsulate what Bhutto stood for.

Throughout its history, the name Bhutto has become synonymous with the slogan ‘roti, kapra, makaan’ (food, clothing and shelter), which has come to mean very different things to the Pakistani people. For some, it inculcates a sense of hope and yet for others, Bhutto’s name is embodied by lies, deceit and corruption. From her father’s rule and legacy to the present situation, the documentary paints a simplistic and partisan picture with the director’s attempts to freeze Benazir in time, resulting in her being presented as a martyr. The director’s only success is the use of cinematography to deify Benazir as a woman willing to sacrifice herself by standing up for justice.

The documentary, a self-funded project, resonates biases, which is hardly surprising when taking into account one of the producers was Benazir’s lobbyist- Mark Siegel. The documentary revolves around showcasing Benazir’s achievements; eradication of polio, creation of women police stations, however, little emphasis was placed upon the fraudulent charges and allegations on corruption, which brought Pakistan into international limelight. Pertaining to the religious vanguard, themes such as Hudood ordinance and the regimes support for Islamic extremists, were systematically substituted to showcase Benazir’s transformation and her fight for the truth; democracy.

Throughout the documentary, the notion of democracy remains the only faithful constant and with this comes the conviction that democracy provides agency to the people, however what the film neglects to illustrate is the ease with which people are erased from the equation. The film lacks the narrative of the common Pakistani man and instead centers on voicing the opinion of two groups; western discourse through the opinions of western intellectuals commenting on Benazir’s regime and Benazir’s friends and family.

Having provided a somewhat critical assessment of the film in the political framework of Pakistan at the time of Bhutto, it is important to acknowledge that the documentary beautifully captures Benazir in her role as a mother, wife, sister and a friend. When looking at these moments in isolation of the wider political context, it provides insight into the personal life of Bhutto that is true and honest.

Ultimately, ‘Bhutto’ fails to represent the complex situation experienced in Pakistan under Benazir, which results in a pandering to the western publics concepts of democratisation and individual liberties.

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1 Comment


Talaat I khan

30 Jan 11, 16:05

Benazir a leader yes by virtue of fate mother by virtue of politics prime minister by virtue of zulfiqar Bhutto's" Hanging"and a mrtyre by virtue of Wests desire to intrude pakistan.All acheived, part performed,Bhutto is History.In the country where the very basis of a Religion is "dictation" and emphasis on the following of the Holly prophet and his desciples is the base for beibg a Muslim where can u accomodate "Democracy".Islam dictates terms of Religion by setting up norms to follow the life style of the Holly prophet Mohammad (PBUH)democracy is total freedom of thinking, speech and life, please justify the two differnt ideologies Democracy and Islamic State how do we satisfy the two under one umbrella.Pakistan can be either a Muslim state or a Democratic State, if we are to state it as one we will definitely be defying the rules and norms of the other but to say that Pakistan is a democratic Mulsim Country, I dont quite understand, please someone come forward and justify this.

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