(San Francisco, CA, January 19, 2011) — A portrait of one of the most fascinating and complex figures of our time, Bhutto is the epic tale of the life and tragic death of Benazir Bhutto, who broke the Islamic glass ceiling as the first woman leader of a Muslim country. Beloved by the people of her native Pakistan, she was reviled by the nation’s military establishment and male-dominated ruling class. More than two years after her death from a suicide bomber, Benazir remains a divisive figure, a symbolic metaphor for the fight between terrorism and moderation. That struggle continues today in Pakistan, the world’s most strategically important country and the Muslim world’s sole nuclear power. Directed by Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara, Bhutto will premiere on the Emmy® Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens on May, 10, 2011, at 10:00pm (check local listings.)
Born on June 21, 1953, into a wealthy landowning family, which later became Pakistan’s dominant political dynasty, Benazir Bhutto lived a life of Shakespearean proportions. Her family, often referred to as the “Kennedys of Pakistan,” had a painful legacy of triumph and tragedy played out on an international stage. Zulifikar Ali Bhutto, her father and the first democratically elected president of Pakistan, was executed by his own handpicked Army chief.
Her two beloved brothers died mysteriously at the hands of others: Shanahwaz was poisoned in France and Murtaza was gunned down in a shootout on a Pakistani street. Both murders remain unsolved. Educated at Harvard and Oxford, Benazir made history as the first woman leader of a Muslim country, yet she was wed in a traditional arranged marriage to then-Karachi playboy Asif Ali Zardari. With an eye on a foreign service career, Benazir’s life changed forever when her father chose her to carry his political mantle, over the family’s eldest son. In the late 1970s, when Zulifikar Ali Bhutto was overthrown and hanged in a “judicial assassination,” Benazir swore to avenge her father and restore democracy — or die trying.
Director/producer Duane Baughman points out how Benazir’s relationship with her father — and his subsequent execution — transformed her. “At that point she was an unstoppable force. Her life’s purpose became avenging her father’s dream for the people of Pakistan and that started and ended with democracy,” said Baughman. “The fact that she was a young woman in the Muslim world staring down the same dictator who hanged her father only makes the story that much more riveting.”
Benazir’s first election victory came under the banner of her martyred father’s popular Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1988. From her first moment in office as prime minister, Benazir’s life and reign of power were marked by contradictions and questions. She wrestled with a male-dominated society and an entrenched military establishment, a struggle that continued throughout her life. Her first government was removed in a military-backed coup in 1990. She rose again in 1993 but was toppled by the power elite in 1996. She entered an eight-year, self-imposed exile in London, New York, and Dubai.
In 2007, with Pakistan roiling in turmoil and under the thumb of yet another military dictator, Benazir was called back as the country’s best hope for democracy. The very night of her triumphant return, a double-suicide bombing assassination attempt killed 170 of her supporters. “We will continue to meet the public,” she said defiantly, after narrowly escaping harm. “We will not be deterred.” Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007. She transcended politics, but left a legacy of simmering controversy and undeniable courage that will be debated for years to come.
To learn more about the film and outreach activities, visit the Bhutto interactive companion website (www.pbs.org/independentlens/bhutto) which features detailed information on the series, including interviews with the filmmakers and links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film, and more.
About the Filmmakers
Duane Baughman (Producer/Director)
Duane Baughman is the owner and founder of the San Francisco-based Yellow Pad Productions, through which he produced and funded the 2010 Sundance Film Festival feature-length documentary selection Bhutto. He is the owner of the nationally regarded political direct mail firm, The Baughman Company, which has been responsible for helping elect Michael R. Bloomberg mayor of New York City and for the historic presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.
Johnny O’Hara (Director/ Screenwriter)
Johnny O’Hara is a writer/director born and raised in New York City. He began his career as an advertising creative working for legendary real-life MadMan Jerry Della Femina. O’Hara was the winner of the Sundance 2008 Audience Award for best documentary as the writer of Fuel, which went on to become one of 15 documentaries shortlisted for the 2009 Academy Awards. He was nominated by the Writer’s Guild of America for best documentary screenplay in 2009. O’Hara is also an author. His first book, published by Penguin, was titled Elvis & You. Which partly explains his ridiculous hairstyle.
Mark Siegel (Producer)
Pakistan expert Mark Siegel, a partner at Locke Lord Strategies, has a vast political resume that includes serving as deputy assistant to President Jimmy Carter, assistant to former Senator and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and executive director of the Democratic National Committee. Siegel assisted Benazir Bhutto in updating her autobiography, Daughter of Destiny, in 2007 and, shortly before her death, co-authored with Bhutto the international bestseller Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West. He frequently appears on television as a political analyst and was interviewed by Jon Stewart about his book and friendship with Ms. Bhutto as a guest on The Daily Show. During three Democratic National Conventions, Siegel served as political consultant to the late long-time CBS News anchor and newsman Walter Cronkite. A prominent speechwriter, he has written for presidents, vice presidents, U.S. congressmen, corporate executives, and international dignitaries.
About Independent Lens
Independent Lens is an Emmy® Award-winning weekly series airing on PBS. The acclaimed anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of their independent producers. Independent Lens features unforgettable stories about unique individuals, communities, and moments in history. Presented by the Independent Television Service (ITVS), the series is supported by interactive companion websites and national publicity and community engagement campaigns. Independent Lens is jointly curated by ITVS and PBS, and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding provided by PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts. The series producer is Lois Vossen.
For the program’s companion website, visit http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/bhutto
Voleine Amilcar, ITVS, 415-356-8383 x 244, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Lugo, 770-623-8190, email@example.com
Cara White, 843-881-1480, firstname.lastname@example.org
For downloadable images, visit http://pressroom.pbs.org