Political consultant turns filmmaker

Duane Baughman screens his new film at the Clay.

By Don Langley

The film “Bhutto,” which earned high praise at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, is now playing at several dozen theaters throughout the country. But local producer-director Duane Baughman says it was most important to him to bring his documentary home to the Clay Theater on Fillmore.

He invited his Washington Street neighbors and others he had met in his informal office — the Peet’s coffee shop at Sacramento and Fillmore Streets — to a showing there early in the new year. Baughman also bought out a San Diego theater at the end of January so his parents and their friends could see it in the city where he grew up.

The core of the feature-length film is the life and assassination of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007, but it is far more than that. It is a primer on the history and politics of Pakistan. Baughman pieced together an astounding amalgam of archival film, starting with the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. It traces the birth of Bhutto in 1953, the rise of her father to the presidency and his eventual hanging, plus the murder of her two brothers. Baughman interviewed scholars and reporters who covered Bhutto during her two terms as prime minister and her return for a third try. And he capped it off with interviews with Pervez Musharraf, the most recent military dictator of Pakistan, and Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s husband, who took over her party’s leadership and is now president.

Remarkably, the film is mostly narrated by Benazir Bhutto herself. Baughman learned of a reporter who had recordings of many hours of conversations on tape stored in her attic in Connecticut. The tapes were deteriorating, so Baughman sent them to Los Angeles for rescue and restoration.

A political consultant who worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and helped engineer Michael Bloomberg’s election as mayor of New York, Baughman’s contact with Pakistani politics began when he was being considered for a job helping Bhutto run for a third term as prime minister. She was assassinated before the contract was completed.

But the contacts he had made gave him the opportunity to tell Bhutto’s story in the film he ultimately produced.

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