Dennis Palmieri is director of communications for ITVS, and led the team that produced the Washington D.C. premiere of Bhutto at the headquarters of the National Geographic Society on June 29th. He reports from the event:
Last night, ITVS hosted the Washington D.C. premiere of the landmark new documentary Bhutto, about the life, career, and tragic death of one of the world’s most dynamic leaders — and the first woman ever to lead an Islamic nation — Benazir Bhutto. The film debuted at Sundance 2010 to rave reviews and Independent Lens series producer Lois Vossen quickly moved in to secure Bhutto for next season; it will air in March 2011 in celebration of Women’s History Month. But last night, Bhutto belonged to official Washington. Nearly 400 invited guests, members of Congress and the Washington diplomatic corps, journalists, and other notables were regaled with reflections and remembrances of Ms. Bhutto’s life and work. The pinnacle of the evening though, was a surprise appearance by another dynamic woman leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who took the podium during introductory remarks to share memories of her friendship with Benazir (watch the Speaker’s remarks below).
Having the Speaker at our event was truly an honor, especially for a San Francisco-based organization like ITVS! Introductory remarks were also made by Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (see below).
Following the screening of Bhutto, a visibly moved Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, took the stage to talk about Benazir’s political legacy, and the continuing struggle for democracy in Pakistan. He also acknowledged Ms. Sanam Bhutto, Benazir’s sister and only living sibling, who was also in attendance.
The event wrapped up with a brief discussion with the filmmakers (producer Mark Siegel and director Duane Baughman), hosted by veteran journalist Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour (watch the discussion below and read Woodruff's report on the film for the Online NewsHour).
All in all it was quite an evening. Friends and supporters gathered to celebrate Mrs. Bhutto’s life, prominent members of official Washington turned out to support the ongoing and very consequential U.S. relationship with Pakistan, and once again, ITVS fulfilled its mission to bring independently produced programming to diverse audiences in support of civic dialogue and public education. One thing is certain, however you might be inclined to judge Ms. Bhutto’s political legacy, this an important film that will educate millions of Americans about the turbulent political history of modern Pakistan.
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