A Filmmaker’s Story

Movie Tells Vivid Tale of Benazir Bhutto

Posted January 20, 2010 at 4:36pm

Duane Baughman has always had a healthy sense of adventure. During non-election years, the Democratic direct-mail firm president has gone gorilla trekking in Rwanda and spent time with a tribe in Papua New Guinea.

“Fifty years ago, my business card would have

read: ‘Duane Baughman, Adventurer,’— Baughman says with a chuckle. “In my off season I go to places that no right person would think to go.—

It is this lust for life that has led Baughman to his latest hobby: filmmaking. After that trip to Rwanda several years ago, Baughman decided that he wanted to become a storyteller and share the stories that he heard on his travels with the world in an effort to bring about change.

“I find that the really, really fascinating stories of life are the ones that we don’t have a clue are going on,— he says, adding that he thinks movies are a wonderful medium for informing people about what is happening in the world. Baughman calls his movie-making efforts “film-an-thropy.—

Six years ago he began traveling to the annual Sundance Film Festival and seeing up to 20 movies in three days. At first, the filmmaking talents at the festival intimidated him, though not for long.

“The first year I said, ‘What these people do is pretty incredible.’ The second year I said, ‘Last year was better.’ And the third year I said, ‘Oh I could do that!’— Baughman remembers.

And so a filmmaker was born. Baughman, who serves as president of the San Francisco firm Baughman Co., first began working on a documentary about Rwanda, but he soon became sidetracked by the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Several months before the assassination, a mutual friend, D.C. lawyer Mark Siegel, had asked Baughman to send him samples of his international campaign work, though he did not say what election he was considering hiring Baughman for. It was soon revealed that Siegel was working to re-elect Bhutto, though she was assassinated before the campaign really took off. Siegel’s grief and struggle to keep Bhutto’s memory alive inspired Baughman to make a film about her life.

Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, asked Siegel to sort through all of the requests for access that came pouring in after her death. Siegel met with many people who wanted to make films and write books about the former Pakistani leader, but none of them were as good a fit as Baughman.

“Duane came in and it clicked,— Siegel says. “Not only did I feel a professional bond, but I felt chemistry and I saw passion.—

Siegel met with Baughman a few weeks after Bhutto’s death and agreed to help arrange various interviews for the documentary that would simply be called “Bhutto.—

“A month or two months after [the assassination], I was sitting in Dubai in what used to be Benazir’s living room filming her heartbroken children and her absolutely devastated widower,— Baughman says. “It’s some of the most riveting documentary footage that I’ve seen in any movie. It’s literally almost right after the fact.—

Baughman’s fascination with Bhutto began long before her death. He was always intrigued by the fact that she was serving as prime minister of a nation that still allowed honor killings and oppression of women.

“The next time you feel like the world is against you, you should think of her because the world was against her and she rose up,— he says. “It’s an incredibly important story. If you ever really want to change the world, you better get in there and find yourself some role models that are being overlooked. She absolutely is one.—

Over the course of two and a half years, Baughman and his team interviewed people all over the globe. The film includes exclusive footage with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, journalist Arianna Huffington and politician and friend Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Baughman says the film is just as much about Pakistan as it is about Bhutto.

“The most fascinating thing about this movie — and it excites me to this day — is that it’s what I like to call Pakistan for dummies,— he says. “Pakistan has become, for better or worse, the most strategically important country to America. It is absolutely the epicenter for the war on terror, and it is teetering.—

Baughman, who acted as lead producer on the film, credits much of the film to Siegel, who had a vision of what the finished product should look like and shares a producing credit.

Siegel says the film tells the story of Pakistan from 1947 until the present time and sheds light on all that Bhutto was trying to do.

“It is very, very important for me to protect that legacy. I want the world to remember the person that I knew, and I think this film draws a picture of the woman I knew and the potential that was destroyed by her assassination,— Siegel says.

In the end, the film cost more than $3 million to make, all of which came out of Baughman’s pocket. He credits his direct-mail campaigns for such heavy hitters as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) and former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) with giving him the means to fund the project.

“Bhutto— will premier at Sundance this weekend, where Baughman hopes he will find a distributor to release the movie internationally. While making back his money would be nice, Baughman is more concerned with inspiring women all over the world.

“Whether or not I make one penny back, I wouldn’t miss it,— he says. “It really comes down to wanting the world to see the story. If it gets into theaters and changes one mind or goes into a third-grade class and some girl says, ‘I had no idea,’ then I will consider it a success.—