Synopsis by Mark Deming
Between 1998 and 2002, it seemed the Dixie Chicks could do no wrong. Their first major-label album, Wide Open Spaces, was a smash hit, topping the country charts and eventually selling 12 million copies, while their subsequent albums Fly and Home respectively moved ten and six million units. Their concert tours were consistent sellouts, making them the most commercially successful female group in the history of the recording industry. However, things took an unexpected turn for the Dixie Chicks in March 2003; with the United States expected to invade Iraq in a matter of days, the group's Texas-born singer Natalie Maines said during a concert in England, "Just so you know, we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas." While the spontaneous quip earned cheers during the show, the Dixie Chicks soon found themselves at the center of a firestorm of controversy at home -- radio stations pulled their music from playlists, conservative political commentators organized boycotts and protests against the groups, and during shows the Chicks became the targets of death threats. As Maines and her bandmates Emily Robison and Martie Maguire weathered the storm, they had things of their own to deal with, including marriages, childbirth, and making a new album with producer Rick Rubin. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck teamed up to follow the Dixie Chicks as they recorded their 2006 album Taking the Long Way, fought back against the accusations lobbed against them, and struggled to hold on to their personal lives in the midst of intense media scrutiny. Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing (titled for a comment shouted at them by a fan) was the result; the film became the first documentary to enjoy its world premiere as a Gala Presentation at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival.
controversy, country-music, musician, President