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Movie Review: Shut Up & Sing (2006)

Yeah, Fuck You Toby Keith

The Cast
Natalie Maines ... Herself
Emily Robison ... Herself
Martie Maguire ... Herself
Simon Renshaw ... Himself

Every once in awhile, a documentary filmmaker finds themselves in the right place at the right time, where no matter what the previous subject matter of their project was intended to be is changed by a fortuitous chain of events. Ask Paul Jay where he thinks his documentary Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows would have been without the Montreal Screwjob. Directors Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck found themselves in a similar position way back in 2003, in - of all places - a country music concert in England. When Natalie Maines (lead singer of the Dixie Chicks) quipped to the sold out audience between song performances that the Chicks were embarrassed that American President George W. Bush was from the same state that they were, it launched a firestorm of ridiculous proportions.

For those of you with short memories, let me remind you that back in 2003, the United States was just beginning a war with Iraq over Weapons of Mass Destruction. When Maines voiced her and her bandmates (sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire) opinion regarding the President's actions at such a politically charged time, it awoke a fury in rednecks and right wingers (political not hockey players) throughout the country and across the world. Actually, that's not entirely true. I'm sure most of the free world actually laughed at the remark and remarked "It's funny because it's true" afterwards. However, in the Southern States of the U. S. of A., such a comment was "unpatriotic" and the Dixie Chicks immediately became hated by a ridiculous number of idiots. Can you guess how I feel about this whole issue? I'll give you a hint: I'm quite obviously biased.

The documentary bounces back and forth between 2003 and 2005-06, with 2003 dealing with the backlash from Maines' comment and 05-06 focusing on the release of the Chicks' new album and the reception the band and their manager, Simon Renshaw, were expecting it to receive. Some of the footage from 2003 is of a somewhat alarming nature to me, as I'm a Canadian citizen and I don't like the idea of thousands of crazy and ignorant people living in the country right below me. It's hard to say whether Kopple and Peck included all the anti-Chicks propaganda footage as a way to make the documentary more balanced or just to out and out mock the individuals making the statements. Well, being that it's five years later and the War in Iraq has been almost universally recognised as a stupid mistake, I'm leaning towards the "mock" perspective. Just a hunch.

Yes, the documentary is not an unbiased look at controversial statements a celebrity made at some point. I doubt this movie would have ever seen the light of day if the War in Iraq would have actually had any meaning (this may be me showing how politically naive I am here) or if the Dixie Chicks' new album completely bombed. As it is, neither of those things happened and the story plays out in a much more triumphant fashion, with sweet sweet vindication at the end. For the Dixie Chicks, that meant that everything they endured from the moment that comment was made - all the boycotts, all the death threats, all the ignorance - all those things were worth it in the end. It's an engaging and entertaining hour and a half, made all the better if you actually enjoy the music the Dixie Chicks make.

4 / 5


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