From a deprived and segregated childhood in Alabama to becoming the most powerful woman in the world: Condoleezza Rice cuts an extraordinary and enigmatic figure. This incisive doc tells a mesmerising Faustian tale of a woman whose pursuit of power destroyed her core values and rocketed America into a fateful new direction. Leading her own defence through a series of candid interviews, this is political biography like no other.
Growing up in the heart of the Black Civil Rights resistance, Rice came of age amidst violence and racial oppression; “it was awful”, she recalls. Desperate to escape, it was at university that Rice discovered her political ambitions: “I remember the exact lecture that won me over. It was about how Stalin had consolidated his power. I thought; this is terrific”. Under the wing of her professor, she became a realist; “realists believe that all that matters in the world is power.” She quickly abandoned her engagement to football star, Rick Upchurch, when an opportunity to work in Washington arose. “She chose power over love” he muses.
Early on in her career Rice stood out as a ruthless leader. Critics describe how as a board member of Chevron she wilfully overlooked evidence of the violent abuse of Ogoni tribesmen in her drive to expand the company. Meanwhile, she jumped back and forth from Democrat to Republican: “her goal was to always be in a seat of power”. But it was her “unusual relationship” with Republican candidate George Bush that was to skyrocket her career. He quickly chose her as his National Security Advisor when he was named President in 2000, catapulting her into a position widely acknowledged to be, “out of her league”.
“On January 24th 2001, I wrote a memo to Condoleezza Rice asking urgently for a cabinet level meeting to deal with an impending al-Qaeda attack”, says Richard Clarke, Chief Counter Terrorism Advisor at the time. The briefing, which said multiple attacks were imminent, “did not move from her desk”. The catastrophic result on September 11th 2001 led to, “a complete break from the ideas she had held for decades”. Her personal quest for control became embroiled in “George Bush’s idealism” and her “humble” foreign policy quickly turned into a mouthpiece for war.
According to Clarke, in the wake of 9/11 Rice repeatedly rejected CIA reports that the attacks were not linked to Iraq. Instead she endorsed “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as water boarding in an attempt to obtain information that would justify an invasion, driven blindly forward by Bush’s ideals. It would ultimately lead to a downward spiral of misinformation, international torture networks and mercenaries directly employed by Rice being accused of drunkenly massacring innocent Iraqis.
“I think it was recognised by Condoleezza Rice that they had made a pact with the Devil.” From the little girl who wanted to be a concert pianist to the woman accused of war crimes, this doc is a startling portrait of a life led by opportunism at any cost.