Shut Up and Sing

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Shut Up and Sing
Review (8/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

"Shut Up And Sing" brings us back to the eve of the Iraq War when the Dixie Chicks, one of the most successful female country music bands ever, were playing a concert in London, England of all places. After a day of intense anti-war protests in London, the Chicks got on stage and one of the gals made an off-the-cuff remark about being embarrassed that the President of the United States is from Texas. Probably not the smartest thing to say but it's not like she was in downtown Dallas when she said it. And to tell you the truth, I can guarantee you she wasn't and isn't the only person in the U.S. who is embarrassed. Nevertheless, I am sure Dixie Chick Natalie had no idea what was in store for her and the rest of the band. The English media, always hungry for the sensational story, got a hold of the comments, made it a top story and soon the news made its way back to the U.S. of A. What followed was nothing short of pure horror for the girls of the Dixie Chicks - CD burnings, bannings from country music stations, protests and even death threats. The movie traces the fallout from the night in London when Natalie made that ill-fated comment to the night a few years later when the girls returned to the same theatre in London, England for an encore performance.

I had the pleasure of seeing "Shut Up And Sing" at this year's Toronto International Film Festival at a packed gala performance with the Dixie Chicks in attendance. This is the best movie I saw at this year's Festival and the best documentary I have seen so far this year. I have to admit I was not a fan of the Dixie Chicks before seeing this movie but I certainly have a newfound respect for these women and the strength and perseverance they exhibited in the face of the extreme adversity with which they had to deal. I mean, you watch this movie and see the type of people who protested these women and burned their CDs and you wonder if half the people even knew what the Chicks said, let alone if they string together a coherent sentence. Some of these people were just complete morons. One of my favourites was the guy who said something to the effect, "I believe in free speech just as long as you don't say it publicly." Nice one. I realize too, that the film was probably edited to highlight the morons but my guess is that these people certainly reflected a large majority of the people who took time from their busy day at the trailer park to burn CDs and issue death threats.

Probably the most disappointing reaction was seeing the radio stations across America refusing to play Dixie Chicks music. Tell me the Bush regime didn't have anything to do with that. What happened to the concept known as free speech? The whole thing is, in some ways, heartbreaking to see. I keep hearing, too, how it was the religious right who led the campaign against the Dixie Chicks. I'm not sure how religion had a part in any of this, at least not the God I believe in. Anyone who uses religion as an excuse to burn CDs and threaten anyone's life is probably buying themselves a one-way ticket to a very hot place and I'm not talking about Florida.

It's kind of funny too, that people decide they are going to protest the Dixie Chicks for saying something that I am certain more than half the country feels about their Commander in Chief. The guy can barely string together a sentence for a speech that is written on a piece of paper right in front of his nose. Have you ever seen Bush give a public speech? It's like watching the Three Stooges. How could you not be embarassed?

In the end, "Shut Up And Sing" is a movie that should thoroughly entertain those who believe in freedom of speech and whatever fans of the Dixie Chicks who have hung around with them through these tough times. There's some great behind-the-scenes footage, some genuinely funny moments and some unfortunately heart-wrenching scenes. This movie might even spawn some new fans of the Dixie Chicks. I know I certainly have a newfound appreciation for the gals. I sure wanted to get up and clap my hands for them once the screening of their movie was complete. The girls got a good five-minute standing ovation at the Toronto Festival. Seeing the Chicks in their reture to the London stage where it all began and hearing what Natalie had to say might have been the best moment in film this year. These girls sure don't back down.

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