Hillary on Sony Liv: The Lesser-Known Story of a Fearless Feminist
The documentary features detailed interviews with Clinton herself, her staff, journalists and classmates.
Hillary, streaming now on Sony Liv, is a captivating 4-part documentary on the life and career of Hillary Clinton. Directed by Nanette Burstein, this series decodes the enigma that is Hillary Clinton, and in doing so, manages to show you the real person that lies behind the polarising public figure.
Hillary does a deep dive into the life of its protagonist and brings to fore several lesser-known facts about her life.
What makes the documentary an intimate and fascinating watch is that it features detailed interviews with Clinton herself, her husband Bill, her staff, journalists and even classmates.
In the first episode, we see Hillary in her student years with an inclination towards law. She’s deeply influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr. Her friends recall her as being outspoken, and someone who was always vocal about causes such as women’s empowerment. She is a feminist and unafraid of taking on new challenges, a quality that would go on to shape her political personality as well.
To borrow a term from the millennial dictionary, Hillary was ‘woke’ even when the term wasn’t around.
She joins Yale Law School and it’s here that she meets her future husband Bill who finds her to be “special” and “magnetic.” The part where they describe their love story is particularly endearing.
After Hillary and Bill get married, she (now a lawyer herself) actively supports him in the fledgling stages of his political career. Her appearance is criticised. Her decision to not take her husband’s surname is questioned. But amid all this, she remains unfazed. However, later on, she does work on her image and eventually even adds Clinton to her name.
The same episode also cuts to the frenzy of the 2016 Presidential elections where we see ‘Hillary Clinton v/s Bernie Sanders’.
The docu-series avoids following a linear chronology and moves back and forth in time. In every episode, there’s archival footage from way back in the past and then there’s the more recent behind-the-scenes excitement from the 2016 campaign. As a viewer, you at once get to see how much Hillary has evolved, both as a person and politician.
Burstein does a nice job of defining Hillary’s personality in the first episode. This lays a solid foundation for the rest of the series.
The highlight of the next episode has got to be Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign and eventual victory. After he becomes President, Hillary charts out responsibilities of her own as she’s determined to make a difference as First Lady. They suffer their share of setbacks too and Hillary suddenly finds herself at the receiving end of vicious attacks, but the couple sticks together through it all with remarkable courage.
In the third episode, things reach a new level altogether. Donald Trump makes his entry in the documentary. There’s no love lost between Hillary and Trump as they take on each other in Presidential debates. It’s also in this episode that the series dwells on the Bill Clinton - Monica Lewinsky scandal that comes to light after he gets elected as President for the second time. This controversy not only threatens their marriage but also Bill’s position as President. Both, Hillary and Bill are forthcoming about the incident in the documentary.
When you listen to Hillary reflect on what happened back then, you may not necessarily agree with her, but you definitely feel for her.
This is where the success of the documentary lies. It manages to humanise a larger-than-life public personality.
There’s also a section in this episode that shows her exemplary commitment to women’s issues.
The last episode genuinely leaves you heartbroken when Hillary has to concede defeat to Trump. Like she says in the documentary, it’s something she hadn’t seen coming. This episode is also a treat for Barack Obama fans. It covers his Presidential win and he also makes an appearance in the series.
Each episode of Hillary is an hour long. It was a smart move on the part of the makers to split the documentary across four episodes because a shorter format just wouldn’t have done justice. Aside from First Lady and Presidential candidate, we also see Hillary in roles of secretary of state and senator. The series also focuses on other controversies that marred her political career.
The 2016 campaign parts are an eye-opener, in the sense that you get an idea of the enormity of an election campaign - the scale at which it happens, the efforts that go into it and the people that make it possible. These are also the moments when you see Hillary at her candid best, strategising with her team or among her supporters.
Hillary is a rich and well-researched portrait of a woman that America loves to love as much as they love to hate.
The series is in equal parts inspiring and insightful, and for that alone, it deserves to be watched. It is streaming on Sony Liv.
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