A couple of us went to see Shut Up and Sing over the weekend. The short recommendation is: Go See it. This is another fine Barbara Kopple documentary (Winter Soldier, and Harlan County among many), this time about the country music trio the Dixie Chicks. The Chicks were a hardworking, just-getting-there band when the lead singer, Natalie Maines, let loose with a wisecrack at a London concert in 2003 to the effect that she was ashamed that George Bush was from Texas. The sentence got picked up by London tabloids, then the raging rightwing weblog Powerline in the US and country western radio stations began refusing to play the Chicks’ records (many of the refusals ordered by corporate bosses.) Festive record crushings and death threats followed.

The film gives the whole run-down which alone is worth going to see. But beyond the politics (and there is plenty of that) it’s a great documentary of what goes into a high-powered road show; what is done to drive a group’s career — how many people are involved, what the tasks are. These three young women are the pay-masters for several hundred it seems. There are great sequences of how songs are built, from an idea, or a line, to the complete finished product we hear — and it sure is a product. We see the women with their babies and families, on the road and off. (You think your life is hectic!) Tying all of this together is the sheer, raw energy of the young (just over 30 years old) and very talented musicians. It is amazing to watch, and hear, them perform. Finally, it is a story of growing into a sense of self, of love and mutual aid. The original wisecrack, at first dismissed and tip-toed around, is defended and Maines and the others learn that freedom isn’t always free. Go, even if you are not a country music fan. You could wait for the DVD but you’ll miss out of the fierce anger of the latest album as Maines rips into Not Ready to Make Nice. [ I’m not ready to make nice, I’m not ready to back down, I’m still mad as hell and, I don’t have time to go round and round and round …] I’d go again just to hear her do it.