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Dinner with the President: A Nation's Journey (2007)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 14 November 2008 (USA)
From on-the-street interviews to audiences with religious leaders to dinner with the President of Pakistan, the film takes the temperature of a culture on issues from politics to women's rights.
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From on-the-street interviews to audiences with religious leaders to dinner with the President of Pakistan, the film takes the temperature of a culture on issues from politics to women's rights.

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An interesting and well structured film with great access to Musharraf
4 December 2007 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

In 1999 a military coup saw General Pervez Musharraf take power in Pakistan. In order to examine in life in Pakistan under a dictatorship, filmmaker Sabiha Sumar arranges to be invited to dinner with Musharraf and his family and discuss his background and vision for the future. Similarly she travels around the country meeting the poor and the rich, the liberal and the religious, the young and the old to get their views and experiences of how the country is run and how it is being run.

As many of my recent reviews may tell you, I have been catching up on films from the BBC4 season "Why Democracy?" recently and been very impressed with how the films work together – they are not just on the topic of democracy but they actually give you different points of view in some regards and compliment one another in others. One of the recent ones I saw was Campaign, which showed a local election for the popularity contest that it was, with no change, no policy, just endorsement and image management. The question asked at the start of the film by the channel was "can politicians solve climate change" and I must confess, watching Campaign, that the answer was "no" and I think the film made a good case for democracy being scrapped and a dictatorship being the norm.

Dinner with the President actually deals with similar themes as it explores the situation in Pakistan where technically a military dictator sits over the country. The film acknowledges that Musharraf is not a cruel dictator and indeed the central "dinner" shows him to be intelligent and committed to change and, ironically enough, democracy. The film does a good job of exploring the alternatives to his rule by talking to the Mullahs about how they would rule as well as going into some of the tribal areas. Credit to Sabiha Sumar for doing this as she must have been at least a little intimidated by her surroundings.

She also talks to the liberal modern Pakistanis, partying on the beach and enjoying life and the difference between them and the men living out of the back of a constantly moving truck is massive but yet the film treats them the same in regards their opinion. Both groups have illogical aspects to them but it was a delightful moment to have the men criticising the Mullah's decision to ban music and saying they will ignore it but then turn round and say they would vote for them again. Around these moments we have the dinner of the title broken down across the whole film and it makes for very interesting food for thought. I'm sure there is plenty we did not see and plenty of issues in the country and with Musharraf but to hear him talk about making long term changes and to see the attitudes of the Mullahs did make me wonder if it was such a bad thing that he used the military to seize power like he did.

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Official Sites:



Pakistan | Germany


Urdu | English

Release Date:

14 November 2008 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cena con el presidente See more »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Vidhi Films, ZDF/Arte See more »
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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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