‘Bhutto’ Premieres on Independent Lens, 10 May.

When Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27 December 2007, her family was horrified but not altogether shocked. Indeed, they believed she was never quite safe in her homeland, Pakistan. According to Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara’s documentary, premiering 10 May on PBS, hers was a life of tumult and tragedy: for all her commitment to public service — elected twice to be Pakistan’s Prime Minister — she also felt compelled by a kind of destiny. In addition, Educated at Harvard and Oxford, a woman of great intellect and expectations, she was picked by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to succeed him as political heir (this being a departure from Muslim tradition, to hand down legacies to sons). Bhutto agreed to an arranged marriage as a means to navigate her career, only to have her husband Asif Ali Zardari, spend 11 of their 17 years as man and wife in prison. Indeed, she also spent many years in detention, as Pakistani military leaders sought ways to contain her. Sorting through Pakistan’s remarkably complex history, replete with strife, violence, and corruption, the movie posits Bhutto as a devoted mother as well as an embodiment of democracy — and so, hope and freedom. Her energy and persistence are revealed in archival interviews, adoring crowd scenes, and haunting images of her white scarf blowing in the wind. These conventional visuals are punctuated by lively music soundtrack choices (including Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam) as well as animated maps and other graphics, insisting on Bhutto’s unusual ability to cross borders, between past and present, east and west, personal and political.

RATING 8 / 10