‘I’m Wanita’—Complicated, Maverick & A Monumental Genius: Raindance Review

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‘I’m Wanita’—Complicated, Maverick & A Monumental Genius

A troubled narrative 25 years in the making, Matthew Walker shines an expertly guided light on the peaks, pitfalls and performances of Australia’s Queen of Honky-Tonk. 

★★★★★

Musical folklore tells us country music has always been comprised of three chords and the truth. Spanning from Tamworth, Australia to the birthplace of Honky-Tonk in the Southern belly of the States, a cacophony of talented musicians orchestrate those chords over an 88 minute runtime. Wanita provides the truth—a woman unashamed of her own definition, reckless in wearing her heart on her sleeve. I’m Wanita is a gloriously intimate look at following desire while leaving every home truth at risk, styled in a middle-finger flamboyance that’s inciting, extreme and a damn good time. 

After being tipped as Australia’s brightest upcoming country star in the 1990s, Wanita’s lofty dreams and ambitions have never quite been fulfilled. A slave to the rhythms of alcohol, navigating neurodivergence and disassociated from her life as a sex worker, Wanita stands where she was 25 years ago—with many bridges now burned. Intent on chasing her dreams of recording in Nashville, a mysterious benefactor funds her journey to produce an album with the greats of country, jazz and the people who never seem able to leave her side. 

Despite both Wanita and Walker taking on a craft that dates back to the 1920s, I’m Wanita is a breath of fresh air. In the first 30 seconds, the pair lay out the deepest depths of Wanita’s being in pure nonchalance, stamped across the screen in emboldened typography we have no choice but to face head-on. It’s indicative of Wanita’s essence, the true beauty in her character to effortlessly face a reality that isn’t romanticised by a decorative chorus or guitar solo. The nature of intimate realism also highlights Walker’s distinctive directorial craft, which lies in an ability to personally connect the audience to every on-screen player, no matter how big their role. From the raw talent of bag handler Archer, the unwavering patience of manager Gleny Rae to the musicians and street dwellers of the Deep South, viewers are touched and entranced by the first-hand portal to the world of Wanita.  

Of course, it goes without saying that Wanita remains our star focus throughout. A grassroots woman of the people, her life can arguably be described as the country song that was always meant to be. There’s a driving force of ‘making things happen’ to both Wanita and the documentary, wrapped in a shroud of chaos that she clearly thrives on. It’s reflected in the assorted decor of her unassuming house, in the constant removal of her shoes that evidently keep her grounded in an affinity to nature. Described by those she loves as a “drunk Mother Teresa”—and never as ‘mum’ by her own daughter—the presence of Wanita is one you can only try to keep up with, but never fail to fall in love with. 


A grassroots woman of the people, her life can arguably be described as the country song that was always meant to be.


What’s most interesting is Wanita’s relationship to country music itself. The comparisons made to Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and Kitty Wells seem only too natural. All women who challenged the societal ideals of womanhood assumed male bravado and dominance, spoke out about taboos that affected them. In lieu of the songs about contraception, domestic violence, and alcoholism that preceded her, Wanita is a champion of the neurodivergent and sex workers—even if she doesn’t mean to be. She’s not defined by these things (and clearly doesn’t allow herself to be defined by anything), but instead shows the dormant scope that country music possesses to allow marginalised women the space to share their stories. 

Wanita believes that both she and the notion of country music are in the wrong era, and it’s not hard to understand why. Despite being infatuated with what traditional country music means, she takes its values and contorts them to fit her own identity. Wanita is undeniably a branded package, yet also maintains the pure vulnerability to cut through the nuisance of commercialism. There’s an endless clash of cultures at play throughout the feature, almost replicating the drama of Spaghetti Western that Wanita is so compelled by. Perhaps she was always meant to be bound by the nature of the country beast. 

The Verdict 

A wild ride from beginning to end, viewers can’t help but be rooting for Wanita from the opening credits. Walker’s tender direction is endearing, getting the very best out of the talent we all know needs to be properly discovered. Fantastic musical interludes, fraught exchanges, and a willingness to see the truth as it is, I’m Wanita is a must-watch for all, and a much-needed example of doggedly pursuing dreams somewhat later in life. 

Words by Jasmine Valentine


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