The unconventionally brilliant new Australian documentary I'M WANITA will have its Australian Premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) on 7 August with director Matthew Walker and the film's unforgettable star Wanita Bahtiyar in attendance. Confirmed for national release on September 23, I'M WANITA is the story of a chaotic, flamboyant force of nature & her lifelong odyssey to realise her childhood dream - sometimes at the cost of those dearest to her.
The Australian launch follows the film's International Premiere in May at Canada's prestigious Hot Docs Festival, where Screen Daily listed it as "one of the 15 docs to look out for this year", and reviewer Lee Marshall said: "What makes it stand out is its shape-shifting moral and emotional arc: Walker's film is stranger and more nuanced …the story we get at the end is richer, messier and more interesting than a mere fairy tale."
Wanita Bahtiyar grew up on Yorta Yorta country, listening to Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams and dreaming of singing at the Grand Ole Opry. Her first stop on the road to greatness was Australia's country-music capital, Tamworth. That was 25 years ago. To this day, Wanita's raucous, retro honky-tonk style remains underappreciated in the country-music scene. Now, she has one last chance to record an album at the genre's holy sites in Memphis, New Orleans and Nashville. But will Wanita's demons travel with her?
Expanding on his 2015 short documentary Heart of the Queen, Matthew Walker spent the next five years filming this energetic and empathetic portrait of Wanita that showcases his subject's powerful voice and magnetic screen presence. Wanita's colourful life has encompassed autism, parenting, struggles with alcohol, a tumultuous marriage, sex work and an unrelenting (if unwanted) tendency to burn bridges. Yet she's a true original with a golden soul, and you'll watch this film barracking for her to succeed.
Directed by Matthew Walker, I'M WANITA is produced by Carolina Sorensen and Clare Lewis through their People Productions banner, in association with Tait Brady's Acme Film Company. I'M WANITA is released in Australia by LABEL Distribution. Wanita's new album, 'I'm Wanita' (the recording of which is documented in the film), was released in July and a national tour is scheduled for September.