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Running Time:
1 hour, 39 minutes

Rating: R Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Adult.

Rating Explanation:
for language.

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
Freedom of speech, and so much more, drives this smart, sassy and insightful documentary about the Dixie Chicks.

Additional Info:
Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing was titled for a comment shouted at them by a fan. The film became the first documentary to have a world premiere as a Gala Presentation at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival.

Shut Up and Sing
Directed by noted documentarian Barbara Kopple ("Harlan County, U.S.A.") with Cecilia Peck, this is a compelling documentary about the Dixie Chicks after their 2003 anti-Bush remark caused a firestorm of controversy. It documents the events as they unfolded and the absurd ways people interpret the first amendment. Surprisingly though its not just politics and ignorant Americans that the film presents but it also juxtaposes the frenzy of 2003 with the recording of the Chicks next album two years later.

The controversy began when lead singer Natalie Maines said something on a London stage in 2003 that set off a firestorm of controversy across America. The comment about how she shares the same home state as George W. Bush, was clearly made as a joke, but it soon morphed from a random remark into an attack not only on the President, but the country itself during the early days of the Iraq war. Within days the country, their fans, and most of the media turned on them at the height of their fame.

The documentary begins with a recap of the events, including footage of the incident, and the immediate professional fallout that followed, starting with a boycott of their music by country radio, the absurd demonstrations of CD destruction by irate “fans,” and the even more bizarre posturing of country singer Toby Keith, as well as the contemptible rants of political talk show hosts and pundits. We meet Maines, Martie Maguire, and Emily Robison as three young musicians totally unprepared for this war on free speech, but ready to protect themselves from the swarm of attention that ensued. The media attention is shockingly quick, as the Chicks’ world suddenly changes and they go from industry heavyweights to pariahs. It continues to document their fears as they try to create a new album in the face of unbearable expectations. It captures the Chicks as they politely banter about musical direction, curse in frustration, and attempt to live their lives as mothers and wives. Humanizing the iconic trio through their extremely tense times, including death threats, the documentary reveals their personal positivity and joy as they begin to be creative again. Cutting back and forth between 2003 and 2006, it’s interesting to watch these women go from disbelief to acceptance to defiance as the drama plays out.

Relying on the music to express themselves, and watching their songwriting and recording process is almost as fascinating as the political fireworks. News clips reveal a nation growing weary of the Chicks and their problem as ever larger national issues arise and the war continues to go downhill. But the damage has been done, and while their new album is quite successful, their American tour suffers from lack of interest, leaving The Chicks at a crossroads and wondering where their careers will take them next.

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