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Monday, 30 July 2007

Shut Up and Sing

In 2003, just as the first bombs were about to hit Baghdad, Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, announced to a London audience that she was ashamed that President Bush came from Texas. Whoops, cheers and applause. But Maines’ joking protest sparked outrage across America. Radio stations stopped playing the Chicks’ music, fans trashed their CDs and Maines herself received death threats. So much for freedom of speech.

This excellent documentary by Barbara Kopple (who gave us the brilliant Woody Allen music doco Wild Man Blues) charts the three year journey of the Chicks. We see the three spunky gals go from being chart-topping Country Western superstars, to reviled pariahs. Finally, there’s their reinvention as tortured artists who write their own heartfelt songs that transcend genre boundaries.

The beauty of this film lies in its portrait of a trio of sexy, talented, outspoken women who refuse to be silenced. They stand united and make their music – all the while managing their multi-million dollar ‘brand’, their marriages and their young children – seven between them. Yes, there’s swagger and bravado here – particularly from the fabulously charismatic Maines. But mostly, its just ego-free honesty and true courage. Good old-fashioned American values.

Rochelle Siemienowicz