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With Jim Sabatini

Shut Up and Sing

Shut Up and Sing

Rated: R for language
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: November 3, 2006 Released by: The Weinstein Company

There is a pointed energy and insightfulness to Shut Up and Sing, a new documentary about three talented, and disgraced, country musicians.

From directors Barbara Kopple (Harlan County U.S.A.) and Cecilia Peck, a pungent commentary on our society can be wry and rather affecting from the standpoint of The Dixie Chicks (Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, and Martie Maguire). Maybe its detractors would want more shutting up and more singing, but they would be missing the point.

At the top of their recording heights in early 2003 after singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl, Natalie Maines dropped the bomb about George W. Bush hailing from Texas during a London concert. There was massive protesting in the city of the soon-to-be Operation Iraqi Freedom. But, a firestorm from the media had them as traitors, the public quickly turned on them as radio stations boycotted the popular trio's songs.

The dynamic direction consistently entertains with unexpected immediacy, as well as intimacy in the behind-the-scenes/backstage manner. The subtext has a cutting irony being that these loyal women are all for free speech in an passionate way, never giving in after the negative backlash from London. Never was there any backing down when death threats came their way to keep hush-hush about warmongering.

What Shut Up and Sing proves from the keen assembly of footage by Kopple and Peck is the courage, spirit and wit displayed by the group under fire from the right. A political persuasion is evident within all of the slandering and vitriol, as well as an understanding of how so many bought into innuendo and prevarcation, with country music really deep in the hypocrisy. A frank, compelling commentary infuses patriotism, in its loyal, steadfast way within all the growing viciousness. Maybe these unrelenting Chicks (with their new recording, reunion, and return to London) will never generate a landslide of attention in their favor, but as their families, friends, and kids already know, they are still "not ready to make nice."

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Shut Up and Sing       A-       A-

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