In the video above, Hulu hosted a digital happy hour conversation between former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Academy Award-nominated director Nanette Burstein about their documentary series “Hillary,” as moderated by IndieWire TV Awards Editor Libby Hill. The four-part, Emmy-nominated documentary series tracks not just Clinton’s life and career, but examines the sociopolitical landscape of the United States over the last 50 years, with particular focus on women’s evolving role within the system.
The chat is now streaming.
Clinton ended her historic 2016 presidential campaign with around 1,700 hours of behind-the-scenes video footage, which Burstein meticulously combed through to craft her narrative. The director also sat down with Clinton for 35 hours worth of interviews, which appear throughout the documentary series, in addition to archival footage and an extensive amount of ancillary interviews with Clinton’s friends and family, colleagues, former staffers, and journalists who’ve followed the long-time politician’s career.
At the center of much of Burstein’s series is the idea of Clinton as a trailblazer; a woman who forged new ground so that those following in her wake might not struggle as harshly as she did. In 2020, with more women running for president than ever before, it was easy to see the director’s point. Recently, Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden chose Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, the first Black woman to be appear on a major party’s ticket. In our conversation, Clinton shared some of what she had discussed with Harris in recent months.
“I was very eager to be as helpful as I could,” she said, adding that Harris’ sister Maya worked as a senior policy advisor on Clinton’s 2016 campaign, before serving as campaign chairwoman for Harris’ own 2020 presidential campaign. “I’ve talked to [Kamala] throughout the campaign, both before she got in and in these last few weeks leading up to the Vice President’s choice.”
“I think Kamala’s choice is a historic one. It’s incredibly significant for this time we find ourselves in, and I’m very confident about her campaigning and debate skills,” Clinton said. “The things she has to be prepared for is the absolutely unfair torrent of attacks that will be directed at her. Trump has already started to call her his favorite name for prominent women — namely ‘nasty’ — so he’s on the trail of trying to undermine her. I’m sure his allies in right wing media, the Russians, and others will join in and try to add to his attacks.”
“You really can’t be prepared for that,” she said. “I mean, it’s so outrageous the lies and the falsehoods of every sort that come at you. It’s equally troubling that millions of people end up believing it. They share it on their Facebook feeds, they share it on Twitter, they are eager to embrace the most outlandish conspiracy theories.”
“I’ve made it as clear as I can that the campaign has to be better prepared, then we work very honestly to deal with those attacks, to try to refute things you even find ridiculous,” Clinton said, remembering a 2016 hoax that (falsely) claimed that Pope Francis had endorsed Trump. “The campaign and Kamala herself just have to be ready to fight back when all of this begins to rain down on them.”
As far as fact-finding goes, Burstein has long been preoccupied with exploring fascinating subjects that hold great importance to her through her work, telling stories that really matter to her.
“First and foremost, this encompasses the subjects I care deeply about: women’s rights, equality, our broken politics, partisan politics. So it was very rewarding being able to make a film like this,” Burstein said in the interview.
At this juncture, Clinton added that during the process of filming and after, she was able to meet Burstein’s daughter, and posited that much of the importance of documenting this story for the director came, at least partially, from the idea of capturing it for the next generation to learn from.
“[Nanette] came to those interviews with literally pages of single-spaced, typed, questions. I was a little intimidated to be honest,” Clinton said. “She really was one of the best interviewers that I’ve ever dealt with because sometimes directors are not the same as the people actually doing the interviewing, as I’ve learned in documentaries. But she really did just totally grasp the subject.”
“But in talking to her about her daughter, I really felt like this was a labor of love, not just her, but for this next generation of young women who we want to be freer from a lot of the barriers and biases that we unfortunately are still dealing with.”
“My daughter and all her friends from school were devastated when Secretary Clinton lost and they didn’t understand. They’re like, ‘Why haven’t we had a girl president?’ They just couldn’t get it. And why was this guy who they did not have a high opinion of from everything they’d seen? I think she was eight years old at the time, but they could see that this guy, he’s the opposite of qualified. And yet, here’s this other woman who we love and admire.”
“That reality for young girls was heart wrenching to watch as a mom,” Burstein said. “And so, yes, I do want to help people understand our biases and what our problems are as a culture so that we change it for the next generation. “It’s a continuing conversation. One series. One film won’t do it. One election won’t do it. But it’s all of this, it creates change, incremental change.”
IndieWire’s Digital Happy Hour Conversation with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nanette Burstein is presented by Hulu and hosted by IndieWire’s TV Awards Editor Libby Hill. All four episodes of “Hillary” are available to stream on Hulu and for Awards voters at HuluAwards.com. Need an access code? Email HuluAwards@Hulu.com with your guild affiliation.