The four-hour series screened in full ahead of its Hulu release.

By Mary Sollosi
January 26, 2020 at 11:12 AM EST

Women’s stories have loomed large over Sundance this year, including one that has loomed large over American politics for decades. Hillary, the upcoming Hulu docuseries about the life of Hillary Clinton, had its world premiere at the Park City fest Saturday afternoon, and the former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State joined the audience after the four-hour screening (of the entire four-episode series) for a Q&A.

Director Nanette Burstein was first approached by Hulu and executive producer Howard T. Owens about a possible project using hours and hours of footage they had from the 2016 campaign. “I felt strongly that I did not want to make a campaign film,” the filmmaker said in the Q&A. She met with the team, though, to pitch her own take. “I was still overcome with all the emotions of ’16 and it felt too soon to relitigate that,” she explained. “But more importantly I felt like there was a much bigger story, and that story was the life and times of Secretary Clinton. And really, to go deep and understand her life was an opportunity to understand our culture, our history of partisan politics, the women’s movement — to understand where we are now.”

George Pimentel/Getty Images

“I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” said Clinton, who spent seven days — about 35 hours total — being interviewed by Burstein. No question was off-limits. “It was exhausting, and it was overwhelming from time to time,” she admitted. “Occasionally I would be like a 19th-century character in a woman’s serial story in a magazine; I’d go, ‘Oh my god, give me the smelling salts, I need to lie down!’”

Clinton, as the series reiterates many times, has harsh critics and devoted admirers in equal measure; Sundance’s Ray Theater was quite clearly filled with the latter on Saturday. The crowd got louder the longer it sat, cheering for “women’s rights are human rights,” her victory in the 2016 Democratic primary, and upon seeing Barack Obama, in his only talking head appearance, explain why he chose her to be his Secretary of State. The festivalgoers in attendance also asked her about some of the most pressing topics of the moment in a Q&A that followed, including…

The impeachment of Donald Trump

When asked about her thoughts on Trump’s impeachment, Clinton asked, “Do we have 35 hours?” to enthusiastic laughter from the crowd. We didn’t, so she tried to be concise: “I thought that the House managers did a really comprehensive excellent job in presenting the evidence and weaving it together in a narrative that clearly demonstrated that the kind of behavior that they included in the articles of impeachment was exactly what the founders were worried about, and why they put impeachment into the Constitution,” she began. “Of course they knew that there were going to be elections, but they thought that there might very well be at some point — given human nature, the tide of human events — a leader whose behavior would be so egregious, so threatening to the republic, that there had to be a remedy.”

“I’m obviously realistic enough to understand that the House Republicans and Senate Republicans don’t want to hear this, don’t want to have to think hard about it, don’t want to have to make a decision, and are going to probably default to basically deriding the case,” she continued. “I hope that this will haunt them, haunt them for not only political but historic reasons.” She includes her own former colleagues in that. “I served with some of the Republicans who are still there in the Senate, and I find it absolutely beyond my understanding why they are so cowed, so terrified to do what most of them know they should do.”

Whether a woman can win

“I have said for many, many years that a presidential system is much harder for a woman to win than a parliamentary system,” Clinton said. That’s partly because of the party structure, but also because in a parliamentary system, “the person’s the head of government, not the head of state, but in our system we combine them both,” she explained. “So if you think about the conditioning that people have had to what a president looks like and how a president acts…I think that we will get there and I’m very hopeful about that. We got further than we ever had before in 2016, but it is a big, big endeavor, for anyone, man or woman, but particularly given the residual continuing double standard, it’s very challenging for a woman.”

Bernie Sanders

“People can support whoever they want to support,” Clinton said immediately when asked about her 2016 primary opponent. “But once we have a nominee, close ranks and support that nominee.” The Sundance crowd went wild for this, and Clinton looked back at her own history with a primary loss as an example. “My race with Barack Obama was much closer than my race with Bernie Sanders. I actually got more votes than Barack did, but he got more delegates — okay. So as soon as that was clear, within days, I dropped out, endorsed him, I did a hundred events for him, nobody ever doubted my support for him,” she said. “I think that’s what we should expect from anyone who doesn’t get the nomination.”

Whether there’s any hope to repair the damage

“You know, I’ve thought a lot about this, because I think there’s been considerable damage,” she said. “I think it is repairable as long as we win this November. And I say that not just as a partisan Democrat who wants to see a Democrat elected, I say it as an American and a former Secretary of State.” She recalled when Obama took office in 2009, and he devoted his efforts to our economy while she traveled the world trying to fix America’s broken relationships. “So I know that you can turn it around — and it wasn’t easy,” she added. “I think it’s reversible, [but] we will have a much more difficult time trying to reverse it if he gets a second term, which is unimaginable to me because of what I think it would mean for our democracy. So let’s make sure we win in 2020.”

And what does she think of Sundance?!

“It’s been fabulous!” Clinton enthused. “I can’t thank all the Sundance people enough for doing this, and wonder what took me so long!”

Hillary will arrive on Hulu Friday, March 6. For the latest from Park City, follow EW’s coverage of Sundance here.

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