Toronto International Film Festival 2006

Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

Can We Talk?

The Dixie Chicks spread the word at TIFF

The Dixie Chicks (from left, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Emily Robison) at the press conference for the documentary Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing. (Evan Agostini/Getty Images) The Dixie Chicks (from left, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Emily Robison) at the press conference for the documentary Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing. (Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

In a world where new verbs are coined every day (to google, to action, to impact), here’s one for ya: to dixie-chick. As an attendee at the press conference promoting the new doc, Dixie Chicks: Shut Up And Sing, points out, to be dixie-chicked is “not as exciting as it sounds.” In fact, it’s downright unpleasant.

In 2003, Natalie Maines, the blond Texan lead singer of top-selling country artists the Dixie Chicks, made the following statement at a concert in England: “We’re ashamed that George Bush is from Texas.” Um, whoops! This was when support for the war in Iraq was at an all-time high, and the martial mood in America didn’t brook leftist statements from spoiled, gazillion-selling country-and-western chanteuses. To borrow the vitriolic imperative that gives the film its name — “shut up and sing.” Subsequently, the Chicks were dixie-chicked, which is to say boycotted by country radio, silenced by the right-wing media and castigated by once-loyal fans.

Present at the TIFF press conference are band members Martie Maguire, Emily Robison (they’re sisters), sparkplug Natalie Maines and the film’s co-directors — Cecilia Peck and two-time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple. A gushing moderator reminds us of how many records the band has sold, how he rushed out and purchased all their albums after seeing the doc and how the film is “about a great principle: freedom of speech.”

The Chicks, especially Maines, are as fiery as you’d expect them to be. You don’t sell 20 million-plus records if you’re a wallflower, and Maines is, by her own admission, “mouthy.” Yet they must have been surprised at how an off-the-cuff comment at a concert in London could cause such a fracas. “When I saw the film,” says Maines, “I couldn’t believe what you hear. Even I forgot the little bit [preceding the Bush comment] about not wanting violence and war. Not adding that made it easy for them to say that I didn’t support the troops and America.”

The ensuing firestorm, which included a number one single tumbling from the charts, a decline in album sales, a concerted radio boycott and perhaps more importantly, death threats, makes for rich dramatic fodder.

Says Kopple: “After the comment, both Cecilia and I were thoroughly excited and wanted to do something with [them]. They’re these amazing women who want to do something and say something. Their manager set up a meeting, they felt good about us and trusted us.”

“There were a lot of offers coming from all sides,” says Maguire, “and we were being used and abused by both sides — by the right and the left. We wanted to tell the story truthfully.”

If this was simply a promotional tool, Maines points out, “we would have worn makeup.”

Did her fellow group members ever ask her to apologize, asks the moderator. “Never,” says Maines.

Dixie Chick singer Natalie Maines making a point during the Shut Up and Sing press conference. (Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
Dixie Chick singer Natalie Maines making a point during the Shut Up and Sing press conference. (Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

Would this even have happened if they were a male group? “We do argue about that. [I think] we would have been the Merle Haggard of our time. People don’t like mouthy women,” says Robison.

Maines isn’t so sure. “It’s because we were a country group, not just women,” she insists. After all, “Jennifer Aniston said that [Bush] is a f--king idiot [and there was no fallout]. Y’all didn’t think she was that smart, did ya? She’s very smart.” The crowd laughs.

Once the floor is opened, the Chicks field some groaners. What are their feelings about Bush now? “Ain’t that obvious in the movie?” asks Natalie. It is — she makes some none-too-subtly disparaging remarks about the U.S. commander-in-chief. “He’s just a major disappointment — everything that’s happened since [the comment] is more of a disgrace. You look at Katrina, the Spike Lee film When The Levees Broke — he has been a disaster. That’s Bush, not Spike Lee.”

Things have changed for the Dixie Chicks. “We’re playing to be about half the audience of the last tour. But it feels like they’re here for a purpose — supporting free speech and supporting us. It’s a new audience, and it’s exciting. It’s really neat as an artist,” says Robison.

“I was lucky enough to go [to one of their shows in New York’s] Madison Square Gardens — it was electric,” says Kopple. “Mothers and daughters were singing together — people were holding signs that said ‘Thank you.’”

“To say what you feel goes against the corporate powers-that-be,” adds Peck. “What emerged beyond that was an incredible bond of friendship between the three, and they transformed the experience into making that incredible record [Taking The Long Way].”

“We all say we would never change a thing,” says Maguire. “When you’re coasting along and your career’s going great, you don’t have the ability to soul-search, and it gave us that ability. We do feel that it did happen for a reason.”

“It turned us into women,” says Maines. “When I watched the film, I saw my own maturing in front of my eyes.”

“I think we have each other, and nothing said or done to us can penetrate that,” says Maguire. Indeed, the film portrays their powerful bond and their unwillingness (verging on inability) to back down. These young ladies are about to win a lot of new fans.

The press conference winds down with some chilling comments, spurred on by an astute journo who points out the corollary between Shut Up And Sing and another doc playing at the festival: The U.S. vs. John Lennon. “We saw it the night before ours,” says Maguire. “It was eerie how many things matched up. But it saddened me so much, because as far as our government is concerned, I really felt like we felt more censored than people in the ’60s and ’70s — and that’s scary.”

“Lennon gave us a message,” says Robison, “but we haven’t digested the message. I don’t know what it takes to change that.”

“In the ’60s,” says Kopple, “there was a cultural movement that happened — you really felt a sense of ritual, and I think when Natalie made her comment, there was no community. They were out there on their own — and our hope is that no longer will the Chicks stand alone.”

Richard Poplak is a writer based in Toronto.

CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external sites - links will open in new window.

More from this Author

Richard Poplak

It's oh so quiet
No Country for Old Men and the vogue for silent soundtracks
Peace songs
The Band's Visit offers a wistful take on Arab-Israeli relations
Buzz kill
Is Halo 3 as popular as the videogame industry says it is?
The Woodman cometh
Woody Allen holds court at TIFF
Ocean's two
George Clooney and Brad Pitt walk among mortals at TIFF
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

'Insurance for everybody': Trump vows to improve on Obamacare
U.S. president-elect Donald Trump aims to replace Obamacare with a plan that would envisage "insurance for everybody," he said in an interview with the Washington Post published on Sunday night.
Cargo plane crash in Kyrgyzstan kills at least 37
A Turkish cargo jet crashed near Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport on Monday, killing at least 37 people, most of them residents of a village struck by the Boeing 747 as it tried to land in dense fog, Kyrgyz officials said.
Analysis Trump may be inaugurating an era of market failure in economics and ideas: Don Pittis
The idea that U.S. president-elect Donald Trump can make America great has caused markets to soar. But when truth has become so fragile, can free markets function?
more »

Canada »

New Douglas Garland's triple murder trial to hear 1st from mother of 5-year-old Nathan
The triple murder trial for the man accused of killing five-year-old Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents will hear testimony from the boy's mother first, as the case gets underway Monday morning in Calgary.
New B.C. Indigenous leaders accuse Bennett of 'stall tactics' on child welfare
B.C. Indigenous leaders are "extremely concerned" about the state of First Nations child welfare, and, in a strongly worded letter, are accusing Canada's Indigenous affairs minister of using "stall tactics" to delay fixing the broken system.
Analysis Andrew Scheer leads endorsement race in Conservative leadership campaign
Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer has the backing of the most former and current Conservative politicians, followed by Ontario MPs Erin O'Toole and Lisa Raitt and Quebec MP Maxime Bernier. But will the voting members agree with what the party establishment thinks?
more »

Politics »

CBC Investigates 'Secret order' authorizing RCMP's covert Cold War wiretapping program released after 65 years
The "secret order" that authorized Canada's first warrantless domestic wiretapping program at the dawn of the Cold War threatened five years in prison to anyone who revealed the dragnet's existence, the newly released document shows.
New B.C. Indigenous leaders accuse Bennett of 'stall tactics' on child welfare
B.C. Indigenous leaders are "extremely concerned" about the state of First Nations child welfare, and, in a strongly worded letter, are accusing Canada's Indigenous affairs minister of using "stall tactics" to delay fixing the broken system.
Analysis Andrew Scheer leads endorsement race in Conservative leadership campaign
Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer has the backing of the most former and current Conservative politicians, followed by Ontario MPs Erin O'Toole and Lisa Raitt and Quebec MP Maxime Bernier. But will the voting members agree with what the party establishment thinks?
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

Five most memorable presidential inauguration performances video
The U.S. Presidential inauguration has attracted some major talent in the past. Here's a look back at some of the most memorable performances
Katy Perry, Scarlett Johansson, Cher among celebs set to join Women's March on Washington
Major star power is behind the upcoming Women's March on Washington, D.C.
U.S. Supreme Court to hear free speech clash over offensive trademarks
The Slants aren't exactly a household name when it comes to music, but the Asian-American rock band has certainly made its mark in the legal world.
more »

Technology & Science »

Typing in 'the zone': Why the physical QWERTY keyboard still matters to some audio
You've probably switched over to typing on your smartphone's touch screen, but don't discount the physical QWERTY keyboard as dead just yet. Here's why.
How a small southern Alberta town became a drone hotspot audio
If you have drones dropping off your mail in the future, you will have a small town in southern Alberta to thank.
SpaceX launches 1st rocket since explosion in Florida
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from California on Saturday and placed a constellation of satellites in orbit, marking the company's first launch since a fireball engulfed a similar rocket on a Florida launch pad more than four months ago.
more »

Money »

Analysis Trump may be inaugurating an era of market failure in economics and ideas: Don Pittis
The idea that U.S. president-elect Donald Trump can make America great has caused markets to soar. But when truth has become so fragile, can free markets function?
World Economic Forum begins with air of uncertainty as Trump presidency nears
The global economy is in better shape than it's been in years. Stock markets are booming, oil prices are on the rise again and the risks of a rapid economic slowdown in China, a major source of concern a year ago, have eased.
Samsung Group chief faces arrest, accused of paying millions in bribes
South Korea's special prosecutors' office said it will seek a warrant to arrest the head of Samsung Group, the country's biggest conglomerate, as a corruption scandal engulfing President Park Geun-hye escalated on Monday.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Jays, Bautista on verge of deal: Reports
According to reports, The Toronto Blue Jay are nearing a deal to re-sign, right-handed slugger Jose Bautista.
Recap Dominant 3rd quarter lifts Raptors over Knicks video
Late in the third quarter Sunday afternoon, Kyle Lowry threw his arms in the air gesturing the Air Canada Centre crowd to stand up cheer.
Cournoyer, St-Gelais to lead Canada's world championship team
Canada named its first six skaters to earn spots for the 2017 ISU world short track championships following their performances at the Canadian senior championships on Sunday.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »