"Bhutto" Is More History Lesson Than Biography

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 26, 2011

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The late Benazir Bhutto, both the youngest and the first female prime minister of Pakistan, was born three years before her country became a Republic. Thus, conveniently, her story is also the story of Pakistan. As depicted in the doc Bhutto, Benazir’s life in many eerie ways resembled that of her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a charismatic and well-coitured politician modern enough to disparage the wearing of burqas and to wed an Iranian hottie. Both father and daughter were Western-educated progressives who brandished right-ish tendencies—dad banned hooch, she resisted certain women’s rights issues—and both were martyred, he while imprisoned, she by messy assassination in 2007. They were symbols of modernity and progressiveness in a nation dominated by its military, although Benazir inherited a far more precarious situation—a clusterfuck of coups, honor killings, plentiful nuclear warheads and terrorists, including a respectable chunk of Al Qaeda that not even the best politician could clean up.

Packed into two hours, Benazir’s life is presented with a wealth of details and sidelines, including elaborations on how American money wound up in the pockets of Osama bin Laden and her stint in solitary confinement, where she spent so long without speaking that her jaw locked, forcing her to communicate only through writing.

For a Wikipedia doc, one that could air on The History Channel if it boasted a shred of credibility, Bhutto keeps things fast and lively. As a history lesson and call to arms, it’s above par, albeit suffering a touch from hero worship. Bhutto embraces its subject’s importance—her as a person, not so much. Placed on a pedastal, she’s depicted as a person of limited flaws who all but walked on water. When the filmmakers have to cover her forced resignation on corruption charges, their army of talking heads simply assert that corruption charges are usually bullshit with no further comment. Bhutto gives you a rich idea of its star’s accomplishments but not so much who its star was.

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