Need a break from the US election results? Watch Emmy-nominated doccie Hillary, now on ShowmaxWatch all of it now
Hillary Rodham Clinton was one of the most polarising presidential candidates in recent political history. Now, as we wait to hear who will be named president of the USA, she steps back into the spotlight in the Emmy-nominated, Critics’ Choice-winning documentary series Hillary.
Streaming on Showmax in South Africa, the four-part documentary series Hillary not only tracks the political career of this iconic and often controversial public figure, but, through one-on-one interviews and archival footage, attempts to give us a glimpse of the private person, from her childhood in the burbs of Chicago in the ‘50s, through her years as a student and activist, and her time at Yale Law School, where she met Bill Clinton.
Directed and produced by Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Nanette Burstein (On the Ropes, The Kid Stays in the Picture), Hillary follows her journey from one of the most influential lawyers in America to beleaguered First Lady, New York senator and Secretary of State, and draws on the director’s unprecedented access to her 2016 campaign as the US’s first female presidential contender.
Featuring exclusive interviews with Hillary herself, her husband and former US President Bill Clinton, their daughter Chelsea Clinton, and former President Barack Obama, as well as friends, staff, and the journalists who’ve followed her turbulent career, the series examines how she became both one of the most admired and vilified women in the world.
Hillary herself also weighs in on the allegations, scandals and investigations that dominated global headlines: Vince Foster, Benghazi, and the emails controversy, which got more media coverage than any other subject over the 2016 presidential race.
“It paints the picture of a whip-smart woman whose candour and ambition both alienated and inspired.”The Los Angeles Times
What the critics say
Hillary has an 80% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “It’s difficult to think of any [series] that speaks to our moment as strikingly as this documentary does,” says The Wall Street Journal, while The Times UK called it an “astounding and audacious political documentary.”
Even though the documentary has drawn the ire of Hillary’s detractors (not least for her comments about Senator Bernie Sanders), as RogerEbert.com puts it, it’s “incredible documentary filmmaking no matter your party affiliation.”
“Hillary doesn’t disguise itself as some sort of balanced expose, as if such a thing even exists,” says The Los Angeles Times. “It sets out, and succeeds, in telling the motivating, painful and redemptive story of a polarizing figure who has generated backlash and excitement in equal measure.”
“It paints the picture of a whip-smart woman whose candour and ambition both alienated and inspired,” they say, “whose frank admissions and biting humor throughout the series shed light on the frustrations and absurd situations she faced as the first woman to run for the office in a presidential election.”
As Indiewire put it, as much as it’s about Hillary, it’s also “a nuanced examination of why we don’t yet have a female president.”
In their review, The New York Times points to “the central puzzle Burstein describes: that after all the decades and headlines, people feel they don’t know Hillary Clinton.”
“An absolute monster of a doccie”
As The Times UK puts it, Hillary is “an absolute monster” of a doccie, pulled from thousands of hours of behind-the-scenes footage from the 2016 presidential campaign and 35 hours of “new, often revelatory, sit-down interviews with the forthright central subject.” Yet viewers still may not come away feeling they’ve truly gotten to know the woman behind the headlines.
But that, The New York Times argues, may be in the nature of the subject. “Where Hillary stands out is how it finds in Clinton’s early years the foreshadowing of all the attacks she would face in 2008 and 2016 — not just flat-out sexism, but the charges of inauthenticity that connected to her learned defense mechanisms against being too much herself,” The New York Times says. “There’s a tragic irony to Burstein’s narrative, a picture of a warrior weighed down by the armor that kept her alive…. You could argue that that guardedness — everything it says about who is and is not permitted to be ‘authentic’ in our culture, and who gets punished either way — is itself one of the main subjects of Hillary.”