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Genius Products presents
Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing (2006)

"Freedom of speech is fine as long as you don't do it in public."
- Tagline

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: February 19, 2007

Stars: Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, Martie Maguire
Other Stars: Simon Renshaw, Rick Rubin, George W. Bush, Adrian Pasdar, Gareth Maguire, Billy B.
Director: Barbara Kopple and Cecelia Peck

MPAA Rating: R for language
Run Time: 01h:31m:36s
Release Date: February 20, 2007
UPC: 796019799294
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-BB+ D-

DVD Review

I wouldn't call myself a big fan of the Dixie Chicks' music, which recalls excited girls belting out terribly off-key karoake renditions of Goodbye Earl one too many times. However, I'd much rather see them sell loads of albums than the latest teen pop-star sensation. Earning huge popularity on the country circuit, the paths of Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, and Martie Maguire changed forever after a London concert in March 2003. Frustrated by George W. Bush's rush towards invading Iraq, Maines commented between songs that they were "ashamed the President of the United States was from Texas." Once word reached the states about her statement, a huge outcry exploded thanks to right-wing bloggers, Fox News, and other conservative outlets.

Shut Up and Sing chronicles the remarkable fallout for the Dixie Chicks after this statement and their efforts to survive the unfair persecution. As the pressure mounted from close-minded listeners, country radio stopped playing the Chicks almost immediately. Some stations even sponsored the destruction of CDs and boycotting of concerts. While popular artists like Pearl Jam and Kanye West have spoken out harshly against Bush, none have faced the fury levied against the Chicks. There obviously are country-radio listeners who have an open mind, but the large majority shunned their past darlings and made especially hurtful statements. Callers talked about dropping Maines on a bomb over Baghdad, and star Toby Keith even used part of his show to harshly criticize her actions. Maines responded with the infamous "F.U.T.K." shirt that only increased his ire. Their feud had begun in 2002 when she attacked his Angry American tune as ignorant, and her comments about Bush only fueled the fire.

It's stunning to view the nasty personal attacks from right-wing personalities like Bill O'Reilly and Pat Buchanan. Even George W. Bush got into the act and condescended by describing the outcry as Maines "getting her feelings hurt." Her response to the camera after his clip is one of this film's most priceless moments. Directors Cecilia Peck and Barbara Kopple (Harlan County U.S.A.) focus on more than just the response to the Bush comment. Jumping between the 2003 tour and the recording of their latest album Taking the Long Way, they give us a personal look at the Chicks away from the hype. We observe them with their families and learn about their backgrounds as musicians. Unlike many popular groups, they have a strong bond that goes beyond playing music and making money. The negative effects of Maines' comment do reveal some strain, but it never gets in the way of their friendship. By revealing the quiet times away from the fury, we discover the Chicks as people, which only increases the anger at the nasty attacks.

Some of the film's best moments occur during the studio footage, which shows the Chicks attempting to enhance their sound. Working with writer Dan Wilson (from Semisonic) and producer Rick Rubin, they continually improve the tracks and aim to create something beyond the typical country radio hook. The result is a collection of songs that are surprisingly catchy and unique, which helps to raise their spirits. It's intriguing to watch the meetings with manager Simon Renshaw and record executives about this release and the upcoming tour. While the business interests warrant caution, Maines is defiant of country radio and wants to do things differently. To his credit, Renshaw feels like an actual band member and always supports them against everyone else. His testimony before congress against radio-station consolidation is another powerful moment. While preparing the tour, Maines' positive belief about sales is laudatory, but it doesn't come to fruition. The lackluster ticket sales reveal the continued effect of her comments, which did alienate former fans.

Shut Up and Sing covers a topic that has become increasingly relevant in today's volatile landscape: freedom of speech. When politicians, entertainers, writers, or anyone in the public eye speaks out against the president's actions, they face highly negative responses from people who disagree with their thoughts. While listeners who disagree with the Dixie Chicks had the right to stop buying their albums, the institutional response to them was startling. On a scarier level were the death threats, including a very specific note involving Maines at their Dallas concert. The Chicks still performed that night with extra security, but their fears while playing had to be immense. This raises a larger question about conversatives' nasty reaction to Maines' comment. When a statement by an entertainer overseas can generate such terrible feedback, questions arise about our entire system. Thankfully, the Chicks have continued to thrive, and this remarkable film presents their fortitude in the face of vicious criticism. It also revealed more beneath the surface than I would have expected, which has enhanced my view of their talent and songs. I may not buy all their albums tomorrow, but I have gained tremendous respect for them. Hopefully a few of the naysayers will watch this film and do the same.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: It's strange that this release includes a modified full-frame version instead of the theatrical widecreen transfer. I'm guessing there was a specific reason for this change, but I can only speculate, so I'll have to stick with the transfer provided. Considering this limitation, the full-frame picture offers solid colors and few defects, which leads to a worthwhile viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Shut Up and Sing includes a considerable amount of music from both the studio and live performances, and the audio does not disappoint. The 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track conveys the melodic tunes effectively and with significant power. A 5.1-channel digital transfer would have been a great bonus, but the technological limits fail to distract during the engaging presentation.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Miss Potter, Bobby
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The lack of interviews or a commentary from the Dixie Chicks or the directors is a big disappointment. An epilogue updating the band's success would also have been worthwhile. The lone extras provided are the theatrical trailer and pre-menu commercials for Miss Potter and Bobby.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

The Dixie Chicks recently earned a remarkable five Grammy Awards, which included not only two country wins but also song, record, and album honors. Triumphantly performing Not Ready to Make Nice on the show, they served notice that they're stronger than ever. Shut Up and Sing effectively reveals the immense personal and professional struggles they faced and gives us an intimate look at three strong, resilient women.


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