When Natalie Maines told a London audience in March 2003, “We’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas,” she could not have imagined the fallout. But as she and fellow Dixie Chicks Martie Maguir and Emily Robison discover, her outspokenness had political and economic costs back in the States. That story is traced in Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing, screening on 9 August, as the Closing Night Film for Stranger Than Fiction‘s Summer Season, and followed by a Q&A with Barbara Kopple. Directed by Kopple and Cecelia Peck, the film shows crowds smashing CDs with a tractor and campaigns mounted online and at concerts, as former fans made plain their outrage. The Chicks respond by figuring out who they are, not in relation to a fixed fan base or the “brand” they had come to be, but to themselves and other audiences. Maines observes that the controversy “is a part of who we are as a band now.” And so they make a decision to reframe the controversy as a matter of free speech. With help from producer Rick Rubin, they make a new album and then set to marketing it. The film makes a special point of showing the Chicks on the road and at home (dressing their kids for Halloween, at the hospital where Robison has twins), underscoring how these experiences are intertwined. As much as the film shows their healthy integration of professional and personal politics, it also makes clear the significance of the Chicks in broader contexts, including free speech, the growing anti-war movement, and their experience as women in the music industry.
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