Compelling documentary 'Shut Up and Sing' follows unlikely political spokespeople the Dixie Chicks through the media backlash after their public criticism of US President George W Bush and the war in Iraq.

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, lead singer Natalie Maines remarked at a London concert that the trio didn't support the war and that they were "ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas".

The documentary follows the Dixie Chicks over the three years after Maines' controversial statement, as they attempt to rebuild their career and record their new album.

The ensuing backlash involved the band losing half of their concert audiences in the US; their music being boycotted by country radio; copies of their CDs being bulldozed by incensed former fans and death threats.

They went from the highest selling female band of any genre, and all-American sweethearts, to demonised untouchables. The media branded them unpatriotic and the group alienated their core conservative fan base. Forced to take a new direction musically, we see them collaborate with rock producer Rick Rubin on their new album, featuring the unapologetic single 'Not Ready to Make Nice'.

Filmmakers Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck use an engaging mix of media clips, concert recordings and behind-the-scenes interviews to tell the story of the years of strife. The footage is startlingly intimate and candid, showing the band members backstage, in their homes with their husbands and children and in meetings with their publicists, discussing how they should respond to the media furore.

The Dixie Chicks stood steadfastly by their convictions at the risk of sacrificing their careers. Their perseverance, loyalty and sense of humour shine throughout the documentary.

The end of the film sees the band return to the scene of the 'crime', Shepherd's Bush Empire in London. In an act of triumphant defiance, Natalie repeats the statement that sent their careers into a downward spin and transformed them from wholesome country crooners to reluctant heroes of free speech and the anti-war moment. They still don't regret a thing.  

Sarah McIntyre