SHUT UP & SING
The story of the Dixie Chicks, from the peak of their popularity as the national-anthem-singing darlings of country music and top-selling female recording artists of all time, through the now infamous anti-Bush comment made by the group's lead singer Natalie Maines in 2003 during a UK tour, coinciding with the start of the war in Iraq. The film follows the lives and careers of the Dixie Chicks over a period of three years during which they were under political attack and even received a death threat, while continuing to live their lives, have children, and make music - for a new audience.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This doco is intended to show what spunky, defiant and liberal the Dixie Chicks are, and how tough to survive their unintentional shooting themselves in the foot in 2003. It was a throw-away comment by Natalie Maines, the 'mouth' of the three Chicks; we're ashamed that President Bush is a Texan. But the irony is that the on stage remark, said with a coy Texan smile (if that's not an oxymoron) wasn't heard in the US, until the UK media picked it up and then the US media picked it up. They were highly emotive times when it came to Iraq, with thousands of families sending their boys over there, and the Dixie Chicks' heartland was conservative, Republican America. Whoops.
In this regard, the doco is fascinating, showing how at odds performers can be with their fans, politically speaking. The repercussions on the trio - a vast cash cow for Sony Music - was being dumped by their public and by the radio stations that were the oxygen for record sales. So the backlash was painful and the doco is promoted with the message that the issue is freedom of speech. The Dixie Chicks - as evidenced by this doco - never quite got the fact that it was their public, their fans, who turned against them. It wasn't a US Government edict that forbade radio stations across the South to play their music.
The film chronicles their progress through the next three years, often candid, sometimes dull but always up close and personal - we even attend the labour ward for the pre-birth sequences of twins... And includes them strutting their stuff in 2006 with their defiant new song, Not Ready To Make Nice and forgive all those who abandoned them back in 2003.
It isn't a disciplined doco, and the fragmentation of the throughline makes for occasional sags in the film, but the filmmakers mean well. They want to show us a resilient, all-American trio of women who triumph against the evils of a pro-Bush sentiment they unleashed. At first, they try to play it down as a joke (which tends to undermine their liberal credentials a bit) but once they 'own' the attitude, they metaphorically pump their fists and go for broke. As it happens, it lands them in a whole new musical idiom closer to rock-pop, and a new fanbase, which, in 2006, is happy to take their anti-Bush side.
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SHUT UP & SING (M)
CAST: Documentary featuring Dixie Chicks (Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, Martie Maguire)
PRODUCER: David Cassidy, Claude Davies, Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck
DIRECTOR: Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Chris Burrill, Joan Churchill, Seth Gordon, Gary Griffin, Luis Lopez, Darrin Roberts
EDITOR: Bob Eisenhardt, Aaron Kuhn, Emma Morris, Jean Tsien
MUSIC: The Dixie Chicks
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: July 26; Melbourne: August 2; Perth: August 23, 2007