Dinner With the President: A Nation’s Journey


A few minutes into Dinner With the President, co-director Sabiha Sumar shows her friends gathering for a dinner party, which, she explains in voiceover, is something they regularly do to hash out the issues of the day. Specifically, the gathering is for “we, the liberals of Pakistan,” she ominously intones. Does the world really need more progressive sermons from the dinner table? To her credit, Sumar goes out and gets enough footage for a decent portrait of Pakistan under (now-ex) President Pervez Musharraf. If her titular interview is less than revelatory, she fortunately uses Musharraf’s sound bites only as talking points to structure her footage (though there’s enough banal reaction shots of a pensive Sumar to qualify as a 60 Minutes parody). The film’s gutsiest segment has Sumar traveling to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, with no scarf on her head, to interview (and eventually just hector) conservative mullahs over the Taliban’s treatment of women. Funnier still is footage of a yuppie beach party, complete with an Ibiza-ready DJ. Still, for all of Sumar’s hard work and interesting footage, Dinner With the President is a mess, alternating interviews and Sumar’s token progressive sentiments before carelessly using the assassination of Benazir Bhutto for a queasy, drawn-out climax.

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