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Shut Up and Sing

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On the eve of the Iraq War in 2003, the lead singer of the hugely popular country act The Dixie Chicks uttered an offhand disparaging remark about fellow Texan President Bush. The ensuing firestorm drove the band from radio, caused sponsors to flee and turned their concerts into free-speech rallies. Filmmakers Barbara Koppel (Harlan Country, USA) and Cecilia Peck follow the band from the immediate fallout through the trio's regrouping and new album three years later. The film is less a musical portrait of a band than a look at generalized idiocy drummed up by popular media. The film also suggests that while their high-profile trials may have cost the Chicks some fair-weather fans and the megabucks, along the way they gained an equally valuable new identity and sense of purpose. It hardly matters whether you like the Dixie Chicks or their music, or agree with what got uttered that night; Shut Up is an engaging but stinging indictment of our culture, which trumpets freedom of expression -- unless, of course, you disagree with what's expressed. Hindsight certainly gives the Chicks an edge; today, those CD-burnings look hysterical, and plenty of others wish Bush was from somewhere else too.

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