2006, Movies

Shut Up & Sing (2006, Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck)

Can you imagine being so angry at a band that you drove over their CDs with a tractor? I can’t imagine Jeff Tweedy doing something that would make me so angry I would drive over my Wilco CDs or light them on fire. I just can’t relate to it. At all.

This is an infuriating documentary about the nonsense that erupted over Natalie Maines saying she was ashamed of George Bush. It’s a take that has aged rather well. (Well, except for the fact that Trump is making Bush look like a saint domestically.) Because the Bush administration was lying as some of us knew at the time. She was right to say what she said. If I was an American citizen – rather than just an American by descent – I’d be ashamed of way more people than just Bush. Anyway…

The film does a good job of showing the band’s struggle with the crazy reaction to the comments and their determination to stay together and persevere in the face of fairly unrelenting criticism. There’s some stuff about their music process too, as it jumps back and forth between the controversy and preparing to release their next album.

But the real value of the film is the inside look into real people struggling to handle the media controversy machine in real time. This kind of thing is happening more and more, to more and more celebrities. Whether the negative attention is deserved or not, we often forget there are real people at the heart of these things. It’s fascinating to see a group of people trying to navigate this, especially when they are on the side of history and the people who were mad at them most definitely are not.

I remain mystified as to why Americans got so mad at these women. But, given that they did, I’m glad there is a movie documenting the experience from their side.


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