Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2006. Cabin Creek Films. Cinematography by Christine Burrill, Joan Churchill, Seth Gordon, Gary Griffin, Luis Lopez. Produced by David Cassidy, Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck. Music by Paul Reeves. Film Editing by Bob Eisenhardt, Aaron Kuhn, Emma Morris, Jean Tsien. Boston Film Critics Awards 2006. National Board of Review Awards 2006. Online Film Critics Awards 2006. Toronto International Film Festival 2006.
Show business welcomed in a new phenomenon when the Dixie Chicks became the best-selling all-female band in music history, an achievement that seemed to go up in smoke when lead singer Natalie Maines announced during a London concert (on the day the Iraq invasion was first reported) that she was ashamed to be from the same state as President Dubya Bush. The quote rang around the world and ended up inspiring a controversy not seen since the Beatles compared themselves to the old JC, prompting a country music radio ban of the Chicks’ music and more than a few public bonfires. This documentary by Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck follows the band through two tours as they suffer the consequences of a flippant remark, hit rock bottom and work their way back to the top of their business, fresh with a new attitude and a new target audience, never once apologizing for ever having had a political opinion or taking a moral stand. While Kopple gets some great footage of the gals in their lightest and darkest moments, and fully indulges the irresistible Maines in all her outspoken glory, she clearly avoids making a political film and instead assembles a concert film with an issue on its edges. What does it really mean that a country that stands for liberty and freedom will demonize a public figure for having an opinion about a democratically-elected leader? Why is it that the backlash for outspoken women in the media always results in an attack on their sexuality, as when conservative news reporters start labelling them ‘Bimbos’? These are questions that Kopple never explores, further proof (if Wild Man Blues wasn’t enough) that her days of chasing hot topics like Harlan County, USA and American Dream are truly over. Still, it is an entertaining film, and the subjects, and their music, are enormously appealing.