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Overall Rating
4.4

Awesome56.92%
Worth A Look: 35.38%
Average: 1.54%
Pretty Bad: 3.08%
Total Crap: 3.08%

5 reviews, 35 user ratings


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Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing
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by Erik Childress

"Can I Have One Of Those CDs You're Tossing Out?"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I’ve never bought a Dixie Chicks album in my life, but I was on their side when a flippant comment about President Bush to a London audience caused a firestorm of controversy. Still, the premise of giving the Dixie Chicks a further platform to relive that incident and become just another martyr in the fight for diminishing rights in the red and blue states first smacked of a just a chance to join the bandwagon of the anti-administration documentaries telling the choir more of what we already knew. Created by Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck however, Shut Up and Sing is not just another retroactive talking head piece but an actual documenting of the events as they unfolded. Surprisingly though its not just all jaded politics and ignorant Americans as the film juxtaposes the frenzy of 2003 with the dialogue over their next album two years later and we come away with one of the more insightful documentaries about the creation of music in some time.

You didn’t have to be tuned into the entertainment shows back in ’03 to hear the furor over Natalie Maines’ between-song chatter. Hearing it in soundbite form, the debate could easily lean towards it being an easy way to bring a non-U.S. crowd to brainwashed applause. But hours earlier, as the film shows, the ladies are backstage getting an update on the war in Iraq and Maines may have felt something deeper when she told the audience, “we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” The American media picked up on the story like a vulture and soon their #1 status on the country charts (including being the best-selling female country group of all time – can you think of another?) is going down in flames. Literally. People began throwing out their beloved CDs and burning them in effigy as if they had just raped the country.

Hearing the experience of this sudden downfall would carry a stiff “poor you” quality to it, but by some bit of serendipity cameras were rolling to capture it all as it happened. They watch the coverage on television as their manager suggests spin control and we uneasily await the moment when Maines’ bandmates, Emily Robison and Martie McGuire, turn to her and ask why she couldn’t just keep her big mouth shut. To our surprise and delight, that moment never arrives. We can speculate all we want at what may have happened some night off-camera, but there’s a genuine feeling of the comraderie between the three that we can believe them when asked point blank by Diane Sawyer about any growing sense of anonymosity over a few words possibly changing their lives forever.

The anti-Chicks sentiment fuels any liberal’s expectations for the film’s bias towards the assault on common sense and national I.Q. and thus remains the easiest section of the film to pull off. You have to love their reaction when fellow country crooner and good ol’ pro-war boy, Toby Keith, takes up the position against them (how’d YOUR movie do, Toby?) but cringe at the prospect of death threats providing dates and times. Where the film truly hits on something is the flip-flopping of their travails between the time of the controversy in 2003 to 2005 when they are back in the studio trying to decide on the direction of their first album since the hullabaloo. If they play it safe and just try to get the country stations back on their side, is it a cowardly sell-out? Do they ignore their fan base completely and try to shoot for more mainstream pop avenues? Maine’s insistence on not backing down on those who abandoned them may have the aura of stubbornness, but who in their right mind wants to get back in the good graces of those who betrayed them even if the other party felt their beloved music group was the betrayer? On the other hand, there’s a virtuous bravery in embracing the match they struck and trying to craft a personal statement that doesn’t come off as just another ostentatious attempt to court a reaction from those just waiting to pounce on them all over again.

It’s astounding how fickle we’ve become in this country thanks to the media playing down to its citizens. Unfortunately the lower denominator appears to be winning in greater numbers but it also makes stories like Shut Up and Sing so much richer; not as a chance to grumble at one-track idiots whose color-triggered patriotism is a political tool but as a reminder of what the paint on the flag represents. If this was a purely fictional narrative, than the Dixie Chicks’ closing anthem, “The Long Way Around” would be an Oscar-worthy summation. Instead, it’s something more powerful and meaningful in how the beauty of the right song cuts through all barriers and provides us with something that petty politics and ignorance can never take away from us. Going in with just a rudimentary knowledge of their music, by the time Natalie Maines utters one of the best closing lines of the year, I had never been so proud to be an American.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=14929&reviewer=198
originally posted: 10/05/06 02:22:36
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2006 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2006 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/17/07 Kellon Kerr This was a great to the point movie expressing their freedom of speech. 4 stars
11/06/07 Jim Good movie. Ummmm, shouldn't HWBS use a CAPTCHA or something to filter the spam? 5 stars
8/08/07 Belinda Awesome 5 stars
2/27/07 david I loved this movie! makes you want to kick the S#!T out of some of those ex fans! 5 stars
1/10/07 Xtine Wasn't a fan before, but am now. Who are the real patriots? 5 stars
12/29/06 riceve Very interesting. 5 stars
12/24/06 Nancy Taylor-Babcock Every American should see it 5 stars
12/15/06 Richard Paquette Wasted my time 2 stars
12/12/06 William Goss Since when did music and politics need to be exclusive? Rather good, despite slant. 4 stars
12/08/06 CW Loved it! I'm a native Texan & I can totally relate to Natalie's infamous comment. 5 stars
12/02/06 shagtex good to see the girls and what they had to go through because some forgot the constitution 4 stars
11/30/06 Carol Awesome documentary, makes you think and feel. 5 stars
11/27/06 aca Inspiring movie about courageous souls who wont back down to hatred in red USA. go see it! 5 stars
11/20/06 michael don't really go for country but worth a look and wish more had said something like they did 5 stars
11/20/06 AP Country music's loss is America's gain! Outstanding movie. GO SEE IT!!! 5 stars
11/19/06 A Z EXCELLENT, best documentary of the year!!! 5 stars
11/18/06 annie Excellent! 5 stars
11/16/06 KC Get on your tractors and go see this movie! 5 stars
11/13/06 Chell AMAZING FILM! So moving, and worth every cent! 5 stars
11/12/06 S22 OST Sisterhood at it's best a must for a Chicks fans. long may they continue to have their say 5 stars
11/09/06 jeanne coleman entertaining, great insight into the girls, excellent commentary 4 stars
10/31/06 Kathie Excellent Documentary. Three cheers to three great ladies and all those who work so hard wi 5 stars
10/31/06 Von Daven The Sirens are leading you to the rocks.. 1 stars
10/30/06 Crystal It was worth the money. I highly support the chicks. 5 stars
10/29/06 Natalie Amazing film, very strong woman ! I have much respect for them! 5 stars
10/11/06 Lori This documentary is stellar! I cried. The Chicks are brave patriots. 5 stars
10/06/06 Ole Man BourbonThere's a reality lying somewhere between T Keith and N There's a reality lying somewhere between T Keith and N Maines, too bad nobody cares 2 stars
10/05/06 Pritchett 'Never liked their hick music, but I definitely support their right to say what they please 5 stars
9/20/06 Ancaster Film Fest Only complaint I have is the small screen width. 4 stars
9/18/06 denny maybe another academy award for kopple'; maybe best of festival 5 stars
9/14/06 Catherine Lewis awesome 5 stars
9/13/06 Anita Lewis excellent movie 5 stars
8/22/06 Sasha Stein Pretty good, though could have been much better; much is still left on the table. 3 stars
8/07/06 Dar Smith Don't Bother 1 stars
8/05/06 elsa finch greatest documentary 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  27-Oct-2006
  DVD: 20-Feb-2007

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Barbara Kopple
  Cecilia Peck

Written by
  (documentary)

Cast
  The Dixie Chicks



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