‘Miss Americana’: Taylor Swift discusses political activism at Utah’s Sundance Film Festival

Taylor Swift talked about her documentary, "Miss Americana," at the Q&A for the film on the first night of Sundance Film Festival Thursday. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

PARK CITY, Utah, Jan. 24 (UPI) — Taylor Swift said she trusted director Lana Wilson to follow her writing and recording of “Reputation” and subsequent world tour for the documentary “Miss Americana” because she treated her differently than other media.

“When I get sad or upset or humiliated or angry or go through a really horrible time, I feel people lean in with this hunger,” she said at the Sundance Film Festival Q&A with Wilson for the film. “You never did that to me. 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.

“It didn’t make me feel like, ‘Oh, she feels like she’s got a good part for her movie now.'”

“Miss Americana” follows Swift through her break from the spotlight, writing new music and going on tour. It also shows her using her platform to speak out against Tennessee Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn.

Swift, who lives in Nashville, was distressed by Blackburn’s opposition of equal pay for women and the Violence Against Women Act, and the senator’s support for businesses refusing to serve gay couples.

In the film, Swift informs her team, including her father, that she’s going to speak out against Blackburn. Her father in particular feared for Swift’s safety.

“My dad’s always just been so terrified about my safety since I was a kid,” Swift said. “So for him it was all about what does this do? What could happen to you if you say this? If you say this, is my daughter in danger? Is this the moment when I should have stopped it from happening?”

Swift had begun taking a stand on issues that affect women. In 2017, she won a lawsuit against former DJ David Mueller for groping her at a photo shoot.

“My mom went through the trial with me in Denver, which was a really horrible experience to have,” Swift said. “I have all the privilege in the world, financial support, I’m able to pay for a brilliant lawyer. I won that trial, but without all that, I don’t know what would have happened.”

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Swift said going through her own assault case motivated her to use her platform to combat other injustices against women.

“Our opinions are defined by what happens to us in our life,” Swift said.

Blackburn won the 2018 election, but Swift learned she could voice her beliefs and still have a career.

Wilson thanked Swift for allowing her into the singer’s personal process during this time.

“It takes a lot of bravery to do this,” Wilson said. “This isn’t something you had to do. I think it’s because you understood the comfort and inspiration that it would bring to people, especially young women, so it’s just really bold of you to be willing to make this kind of film with me.”

Neither Swift nor Wilson knew Miss Americana would ultimately center around Swift’s political activism when they began making a touring documentary. Swift wasn’t even sure they would end up with a finished film.

“It was just, let’s film, let’s see what you see,” Swift said. “This was completely in her hands. 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, so thank you.”

Wilson said she connected with Swift over their shared craft of storytelling. Swift tells stories through song, Wilson through film.

“When we first met, Taylor immediately wanted to talk about narrative expression in documentary film,” Wilson said. “I remember you saying you didn’t like documentaries that felt like propaganda, and I was thrilled to hear that because I feel the same way. We were really interested in doing something that wasn’t like a lot of pop star documentaries, something that felt really raw and intimate and real.”

Swift had seen Wilson’s abortion documentary “After Tiller.”

“I watch a lot of TV,” Swift said. “I watch a lot of documentaries. I watch a lot of movies, and I’m a fan. I’m a fan of what she had done. I thought the way she so artfully maneuvered through such a touchy subject with such emotional intelligence, that was what made me such a fan.”

“Miss Americana” premieres on Netflix Jan. 31.

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