Washington DC Premiere of Film on Benazir Bhutto (Democracy is the Greatest Revenge) Inspires Audience
By: Khalid Hashmani, McLean
The lucky persons who were able to see the Washington DC premiere of Duane Baughman’s film on Benazir Bhutto appropriately sub-titled “Democracy is the Greatest Revenge” were not only enthralled seeing the glimpses of her life but were also inspired join her mission to uplift poor people of Pakistan and bring about gender equality in the Muslim world.
The film was screened in the impressive theatre of the National Geographic Society on Tuesday, June 29, 2010, a walking distance from the Farragut Square, where many Sindhis and others held a candle light vigil following her murder. The recent report by a UN commission, appointed to investigate Benazir’s murder holds the previous government headed by General Musharraf responsible for her murder. General, who is now despised in Pakistan, continues to enjoy sanctuary in the United States. The cinema hall was overflowing with several people even standing at the back, mesmerized by the charm, courage and oratory of their hero Benazir Bhutto. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House Representatives, who is third in the US government hierarchy, paid a moving tribute to Benazir Bhutto. Other speakers included Patricia Harrison (President and CEO of Corporation of Public Broadcasting) , Mr. Husain Haqqani (Ambassador of Pakistan) and Ms. Sanam Bhutto (Sister of Benazir Bhutto). A discussion with the filmmakers Duane Baugham (Director of film) and Mark Siegel (Producer of film) hosted by Judy Woodruff (Senior Correspondent PBS News-Hour) followed the screening of this 115-minutes long film. The event was organized by a team led by Dennis Palmieri, director of Communications for the Independent Television Services (ITVS) that funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television and on the Web. About 400 invited guests including members of Congress, members of Washington diplomatic and others came to see and remember Benazir Bhutto.
NOTHING IS MORE UN-ISLAMIC THAN DISCRIMINATION, VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, AND TERRORISM
While waiting for the film to start, several slides that included quotations, pictures about the film, people and organizations involved with the making of the film, and Benazir herself continuously played on the screen. One quote of Benazir that captured intense attention is from her 2001 speech at the American University in Washington DC. She said “To me there is nothing more un-Islamic than discrimination. There is nothing more un-Islamic than violence against women. And above all, there is nothing more un-Islamic than terrorism.” Her mission to bring honest democracy to Pakistan and uplift downtrodden people of city slums and rural areas continue to inspire tens of millions of people in Pakistan and is a formidable deterrent to extremism. Even though the current regime headed by her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is bit slow in carrying her mission, the masses in Pakistan remain committed and continue to struggle for the achievement of her mission. Her followers struggle against discrimination and extremism and for equal rights of women. They need support of all peace-loving people, human rights organizations, and democratic and fair-minded governments of the world to succeed in their mission.
NANCY PELOSI PAYS TRIBUTES TO BENAZIR BHUTTO
Introducing Speaker Nancy; Producer Mark Siegel said Benazir Bhutto and Nancy Pelosi had very close relationship with each other. When Benazir Bhutto was in opposition and not many in Washington’s power corridors would not meet her, Nancy always welcomed her whenever she was in town. Speaker Nancy Pelosi remembered Benazir and talked about the thrilling event when Benazir Bhutto addressed the joint session of Congress several years ago. At speaker Folly’s suggestion, Nancy and other women members of the congress organized a lunch with Benazir Bhutto. Speaker Pelosi said they were all so impressed with Benazir, particularly with her unassuming and humble way. Here, she was the first woman leader of a Muslim country, a symbol of changing world. Several video clips of the event are at http://beyondthebox .org/pelosi- other-luminaries -gather-to- celebrate- bhutto/. Speaker Pelosi’s remarks reminded us of her address on the House floor in support of a resolution condemning the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on January 16, 2008. In that tribute Nancy Pelosi noted “She (Benazir Bhutto) was an advocate for reconciliation, between Islamic and non-Islamic societies, and outlined how that goal could be achieved. She not only had a vision, she had a plan on how it would be done. The strength of her message and hope has underscored how much we lost in her tragic death.”
RAVE REVIEWS FOR FILM AT SUNDANCE FESTIVAL 2010
The film debuted at 2010 Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2010 in Park City, Utah. It earned rave reviews and intense interest from all those interested in movies, Muslim countries, and those fascinated by Benazir Bhutto’s life. The opening of the film at Sundance was attended by Benazir’s daughters Bakhtawar and Aseefa, her son Bilawal, and her sister Sanam Bhutto. A YouTube trailer of the film can be seen at http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=cwAPubfJ0r8. Reviewing the film after its screening at the festival, a well-known journalist (Cameron French) wrote “Westerners seeking to understand the volatility of modern Pakistan are getting a good look at the country in a new movie examining the life and legacy of slain leader Benazir Bhutto, screening at the Sundance Film Festival this week.” The official Sundance web site (http://sundance. bside.com/ 2010/films/ bhutto_sundance2 010;jsessionid= 4685303571FBF909 E0B722A1723897EF) calls the film as “Benazir Bhutto’s life story unfolds like a tale of Shakespearean dimensions.” Indeed the film won so much praise and admiration that the Independent Lens series producer Lois Vossen quickly moved in to secure Bhutto film for screening on PBS.
SORROWS OF BHUTTO FAMILY EVOKES A GREEK TRAGEDY
Although film is focused on Benazir Bhutto; it touches the tragic history of partition of sub-continent into India and Pakistan. Clips depicting death and destruction that resulted in the aftermath of the partition are heart-wrenching. The breakup of Pakistan and independence of Bangladesh after 1973 war between Indian and Pakistan brings home the most important message about the tragedies that have been inflicted upon Pakistan by regular military take-overs. The film then moves to the legacy of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, father of Benazir Bhutto, who continues to be admired as a legendary hero of Pakistan politics. Important moments from his life including his famous speech at the UN Security Council discussing the cease-fire resolution and numerous addresses to mammoth throngs of Pakistanis helps audience to understand as to why Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto remains so popular to this day. Benazir’s interviews, speeches, and her interactions when in power or out of power, communicates the inspiring story of Benazir’s Life and work very well. Remarkably, the film lets express people who are who take no political sides, Benazir’s critics and her admirers to express their views. This includes Fatima Bhutto, her niece and a strong critic of Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Zardari, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and well-known left-leaning politician Tariq Ali. Another video review of the film can be seen at http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=ispx7KSbHT0&feature=related.
The film is currently playing in theaters in Pakistan and United Kingdom. It will be released in the United States in November of this year. The film will also be broadcast nationally in the USA on the Emmy Award-winning PBS series “Independent Lens” in March 2011, in celebration of Women’s History Month.
About the Reviewer: Khalid Hashmani is a Washington DC-based human rights activist. He is the founding President of Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) and Chief coordinator of Sindhi Excellence Team (SET) that participates in advocacy activities on behalf of rural Sindhis.
July 4, 2010