Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing
When the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks made an off-the-cuff remark at a concert in London in 2003 about the band being ashamed of President Bush coming from their home-state Texas, there’s no way they could have foreseen themselves being subjected to a vicious and sustained political attack for the next three years that culminated in a death threat. Veteran filmmaker Barbara Kopple (Havoc, Bearing Witness) and her partner Cecilia (daughter of Gregory) Peck’s rockumentary follows the Chicks over three tumultuous years that saw them berated by the media, blacklisted from country radio stations and ostracised by their core redneck fans, whose response to Natalie Maines’ infamous remark provides the film with its title.
What happened to The Dixie Chicks is a searing indictment of a post-9/11 America in which free speech was slammed by ignorant, hawkish patriotism. The American public’s growing disillusionment with the war in Iraq, and the concurrent decreasing popularity of President Bush, eventually ended the campaign against The Dixie Chicks, but it engendered an admirable and ongoing defiant spirit in the three musicians. Instead of heeding the advice of their former fans, The Dixie Chicks recorded an album of self-penned songs (including the single ‘Not Ready to Make Nice’) about the experience, went on to tour again and won a whole new audience. If there’s an element of self-promotion in Kopple and Peck’s film, that’s no doubt part of The Dixie Chicks’ strategy to triumph over adversity. Fair play to them.