Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Dixie Chicks documentary could be election issue

Musicians (L-R) Emily Robison, Natalie Maines and Martie Maguire of the group The Dixie Chicks arrive for Time's celebration of the magazine's '100 Most Influential People' in New York May 8, 2006. The politically charged documentary 'Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing' has been picked up for worldwide distribution by the Weinstein Co. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

By Gregg Goldstein

Tue Aug 22, 9:29 AM ET

The politically charged documentary "Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing" has been picked up for worldwide distribution by the Weinstein Co.

A release is tentatively scheduled for the fall, possibly right before the November elections.

The film revolves around the aftermath of singer Natalie Maines' statement at a 2003 London concert, where she said, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

It chronicles death threats, political attacks and radio boycotts against the country trio, and that could make the film a political hot potato as well as potential ammo should longtime Democratic party supporter Harvey Weinstein become involved in the fall political campaigns.

Asked why she and co-director/producer Barbara Kopple chose to go with the Weinstein Co., Cecilia Peck said, "They made a great offer," though no figures were disclosed. Such companies as Focus Features and Picturehouse expressed interest in the documentary a few months ago.

Sources involved in the negotiations said some parties in the documentary's camp wanted to screen the entire film for several indie distributors, while others only wanted a 15-minute highlight reel to be shown. Eventually only two final bidders were allowed to see a complete rough cut of the film: the Weinstein Co. and Sony Pictures Classics, a sister company of the Dixie Chicks' Columbia Records label.

"I am extremely proud to be associated with this film because it's not only an outstanding and creative piece of work, but it also exposes our responsibility as Americans to confront our fundamental right to freedom of speech," Weinstein said.

Kopple said plans for a grassroots promotional campaign are still being discussed, and Peck said the film is likely to be a hot topic in the approaching elections. "It deals with freedom of speech, censorship and other important issues," Kopple said. "It looks at the cost of standing up for what you believe in."

The documentary still is being completed ahead of its world premiere at next month's Toronto International Film Festival.

In addition to chronicling the lives of Maines and bandmates Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, Kopple said the documentary features clips from 15 of the Dixie Chicks songs and a new one written especially for the film, though no soundtrack is planned. "You definitely feel like you're in the front row of a Dixie Chicks concert," Peck said.