Dixie Chicks: Barbara Kopple’s Docu World Premieres in Toronto Film Fest

Toronto-“Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing,” a powerful documentary from two-time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple (“Harlan County USA,” “American Dream)” and director Cecilia Peck receives its world premiere as a Gala Presentation at the 31st Toronto International Film Festival.

With unprecedented access to the behind-closed-doors world of celebrities in the ventre of a political and pop culture storm, “Dixie Chicks” provides a view of the real and raw emotional rollercoaster of three strong women thrust into the turbulent centre of a national debate. This is the first time in 14 years that the Festival has featured a documentary as a Gala Presentation.

On stage at a 2003 London concert, Natalie Maines, lead singer of Texan trio the Dixie Chicks, spoke these 15 words to a small audience at the start of their sold-out international tour: “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” The comment was delivered on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq, and drew cheers from the decidedly anti-war and anti-Bush British crowd.

It was an off-the-cuff remark typical of the lead singer’s temperament. Natalie, and fellow Dixie Chicks Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, thought little of it. But history and this film demonstrate that at this heightened moment of political polarization in the United States, many people did care, and empowered this simple, yet loaded remark to carry serious and longstanding ramifications.

“Dixie Chicks” travels with the Chicks, from their peak of popularity as the national-anthem-singing darlings of country music and top-selling female recording artists of all time, through the now infamous anti-Bush comment, and on through the days, months and years of mayhem. The film follows the lives and careers of the Chicks through the writing and recording of their first album since “the incident” – and three years of political attack, making music, birthing babies, bonding, death threats, and laughter. At the end, the film presents a complete reconsideration of who people t hink they are, who they want to be and who, ultimately, they really are as women, as public figures, and as musicians.

Directed and produced by Barbara Kopple and Cecila Peck, the docu is a presentation of Cabin Creek Films.