DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: SHUT UP AND SING

Wednesday 4 July 2007


Shut Up and Sing (2006) dir. Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck


Music always makes for good documentaries. Chronicling the Dixie Chicks’ fight with its own fans over a snide comment about President Bush in 2003 “Shut Up and Sing” is no exception. It addresses free speech, country music, rock music, parenthood, patriotism and politics resulting in a unique portrait of modern artists.

Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison are artists and prefer to play and write music than discuss politics, but when, on the eve of the Iraq War Maines said to a London audience she was ashamed the President of the United States was from Texas she had no idea their lives and careers would be altered forever. When the word spread to their homeland of these ‘heinous’ words, suddenly their music played second fiddle to their politics. The film carefully moves back and forth across the four years from when the statement was made to when they made and released their comeback album.

The threesome themselves are a unique concoction. Formed by sisters Martie and Emily, Natalie Maines came to the group late in their careers after the original singer was let go. So when Natalie made her comment and potentially sunk the careers of her band mates, she placed the entire burden her shoulders. But Martie and Emily stand by her side and confront the controversy together as a group. The trio watch the boycott of their music quickly spread across all the southern radio stations who are the bread and butter of their fan base. Natalie acknowledges her mistake when she succinctly says that she has bit the hand that feeds them.

The Dixie Chicks has a support staff that includes the family of each of the members, whom we get to meet, as well their record company and their dedicated and talent manager, Simon Renshaw. Together they manage to save their careers and record their most successful and passionate album to date. We get to see the Chicks’ reaction almost day by day of the news, the concert sales, the talk show controversy and the political action that’s taken as a result of the matters. The radio boycott is even taken to Washington to be debated with John McCain.

The fun stuff comes when the Chicks cross paths with the various celebrities and public figures along their way. The best moments are the Chicks’ ridiculous quid pro quo with village idiot Toby Keith, who trade public potshots at each other over talk shows and public performances. It’s also fun to see the gals recording their new album. We get to meet the elusive Rick Rubin, the bearded rock legend who produced the Beastie Boys, Aerosmith and Red Hot Chili Peppers. And yup, that’s Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing drums on their new album.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence with their decreased sales and popularity in the red states, they were selling out shows in Canada and the Northern U.S. They suddenly got some credibility and respect from liberal America which has made them a cross-over success. And with the success of this album and their Grammy sweep last year, it looks like George W. Bush has been a blessing in disguise for them. Enjoy.

Buy it here: Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing

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