Despite the biodoc implication of its title, Bhutto is not just a portrait of the late Benazir Bhutto, but also a chronological recap of Pakistan’s anarchic history. Duane Baughman’s nonfiction film pays reverential tribute to Bhutto, who, after the 1979 execution of her prime minster father, became the first woman elected to rule a Muslim state and assumed her paterfamilias’ mantle as the country’s leading proponent of democratic government, an agenda stymied by a military apparatus increasingly bent on hard-line Islamic law. Baughman somewhat sketchily addresses the charges of corruption and strategic miscalculations leveled against Bhutto, in part by occasionally leaning too hard on the fond talking-head commentaries of friends and family. Nevertheless, the director’s lionization of the prime minister—who was assassinated in 2007 after eight years in exile—is bolstered by Bhutto’s stirring archival-footage calls for a more just society, as well as by an extensive itemization of Pakistan’s ceaseless tumult. Contextualizing the prime minister’s rise to power within a larger portrait of a nation under constant internal and external siege, Bhutto conveys a forceful sense of tectonic social and geopolitical shifts, as well as the courageous, heartbreaking personal sacrifices its subject made in service to both her homeland and ideals.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 1, 2010