Miss Americana: Taylor Swift’s Powerful Sundance Documentary

On Thursday night in Park City, the 2020 Sundance Film Fest opened with the premiere of Taylor Swift documentary, Miss Americana.

During a Q&A after the film–and standing ovation from the audience–Swift said she had enlisted director Lana Wilson for the project after watching her 2013 docu After Tiller,” which centered on the few doctors in the U.S. who perform late-term abortions.

Before the premiere, Wilson said the movie was made in such “complete secrecy” that even her family didn’t know what she was doing.

Th docu traces Swift’s ambitious musical rise, dealing with her evolution from an apolitical popstar and approval addict to an outspoken feminist and LGBTQ ally.

Netflix will release Miss Americana for streaming day-and-date with its theatrical run January 31.

The movie opens with Swift looking through her old journals, and reflecting on how all she wrote about was her “need to be thought of as good,” and how she wanted to be thought of as “a good girl.”  Swift then reveals one of her quirks: “For awhile I wrote with quill and ink.”

Swift talks about being photographed: “It’s not good for me to see pictures of myself every day.”

“I tend to get triggered by something, whether it’s a picture of me where I feel like I looked like my tummy was too big, or someone said that I looked pregnant or something. That will just trigger me to starve a little bit. Just stop eating.”

She is now determined to eat well and be strong: “I’m a lot happier with who I am. I don’t care as much if somebody points out that I have gained weight. It’s just something that makes my life better.”

After the showing, Swift and director Wilson talked about how they first met through Netflix.

“We started the process not really knowing if we were going to end up with a documentary.  It was just sort of like: Let’s film, let’s see what you see,” Swift said. “And I really appreciate all the hours we talked. Those interviews — there were a lot of hours that she had to hear me talk about my feelings.”

Swift added, “I think one of the things about you is that for so much of my life in the public eye, when I get sad or upset or humiliated or angry or go through a really horrible time, I feel people lean in with like this hunger. And you never did that to me. And that was what made me feel okay about feeling sadness, anger, humiliation around you, because I felt like when I got sad, you did too. And so it made all of that all right. It didn’t make me feel like, ‘Oh, she feels like she’s got a good part for a movie now.’ And I really want to thank you for that.”

Wilson extolled the scene in which Swift explains her political coming-out to her worried family and her team: “The scene where you discussed with your team and family that political endorsement, it’s so powerful because of the politics, but also because it’s watching you with the people who love you the most in the world, saying, ‘You know, I love you. You’re looking out for my best interests, but I have to disagree and do things my own way.’ That’s a moment that’s so many of us have experienced in our lives at one point or another, and I thought it was so powerful as this coming of age event, and the profound ending of this multilayered process you went through to lead you into that decision.”

Swift recalled that tense and emotional meeting: “My dad has always just been so terrified about my safety since I was a kid.  The fact that my job entails standing on a stage and there’s so many threats we get on a daily basis, but nobody ever knows about. And we try to keep that stuff under wraps as much as possible, but my dad is the one who has to see it. And so for him it was all about, ‘What could happen to you if you say this? Is my daughter in danger? And is this the moment when I should have stopped it from happening?’

“I had been speaking to my mom so much about it, and she went through the trial with me in Denver, which was a really horrible experience to have. And I had all the privilege in the world and financial support and the ability to pay for a brilliant lawyer. And I won that trial, but without all that, I don’t know what would have happened. So it taught me so much and, and it was the women in my life who were there every single day going into court. Our political opinions are defined by what happens to us in our life. So that was one of the things that happened to me in my life, and seeing what’s happening in my home state, and then it all culminating and having to have a conversation with people who have been so wonderfully supportive of me through my entire career, feeling so afraid for my safety. And it’s a really real moment for me to watch that back.”