LOS ANGELES (October 24, 2006) — President Bush is getting another big-screen close-up. Two films touching on Bush open the same day, one about a country trio ashamed the president’s from their home state, the other chronicling his fictional assassination.
As Michael Moore’s Bush-bashing hit “Fahrenheit 9/11” showed two years ago, politically charged films are not likely to affect elections. But “Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing” and “Death of a President,” both debuting Friday, are positioned as talking points for the midterm elections 10 days later.
“Films don’t influence elections. People have to,” said Barbara Kopple, who directed “Shut Up and Sing” with Cecilia Peck. “If there’s something they see in a particular film, maybe they’ll explore it further. If it hits at just the right spot, they may go out and help to change something.”
“Shut Up and Sing” recounts the fallout after Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines told a London concert crowd in 2003 that she and band mates Martie Maguire and Emily Robison were ashamed that Bush is from Texas, the remark coming on the eve of the U.S. war in Iraq.
Conservative commentators condemned them, country radio stations banned their songs and fans boycotted their records.
“Death of a President” is a fictional film presented as a documentary examining the assassination of Bush after an economic speech in Chicago on Oct. 19, 2007.
Bush is gunned down by a sniper, the film centering on the chaotic months that follow as conspiracy theories arise, questions emerge about the government’s key suspect and Dick Cheney, sworn in as president, pushes through an expansion of the Patriot Act to broaden federal powers of surveillance.
“Shut Up and Sing” follows the Dixie Chicks’ travails in the three years since Maines uttered what she felt was a mild slam against Bush.
“We were proud of her and surprised at the swiftness of the backlash against her, and we understood something had happened that reflected the state of freedom of speech in our country,” director Peck said. “It galvanized us to want to go and make the film.”
One protester in the film suggests Maines should be strapped to a bomb and dropped on Baghdad. Others tote signs depicting Maines with an X over her mouth.
The trio went from darlings to pariahs of country music but responded with defiance and a healthy dose of humor. The documentary has footage of their Entertainment Weekly photo shoot in which their bare bodies are covered with such slogans as “Saddam’s Angels” and “Dixie Sluts.”
The uproar reflects the hard line the Bush administration has taken since Sept. 11, in which dissent is branded unpatriotic, said Kopple, a two-time Academy Award winner for the documentaries “Harlan County, U.S.A.” and “American Dream.”
“No longer is there a dialogue or discussion. We need more than ever to have people stand up and speak out their opinions.”