Disco and Atomic War (Disko ja tuumasoda) (2010)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Disco and Atomic War (Disko ja tuumasoda) Videos

Disco and Atomic War (Disko ja tuumasoda) Photos

Movie Info

Winner of the Best Documentary prize at the Warsaw International Film Festival, this witty, charming, and provocative film recounts how in the mid 1980's, the nation of Estonia still lay firmly in the grip of the Soviet Union, and the repressive authorities controlled virtually all aspects of Estonian life. The totalitarian government's power was derived in no small part from their ability to censor cultural life and keep Western culture on the other side of the border. Rock and Roll was but a rumor and the only television shows on the air were dreary propaganda. But one day everything changed. Just a few miles across the border in Finland, a huge new television antenna was built that broadcast western signals in all directions--including directly into the heart of the Talinn, the capital of Estonia. Filmmakers Jaak Kilmi and Kiur Aarma grew up in Talinn in the 80's, and in DISCO AND ATOMIC WAR they make use of wonderfully playful but credible recreations to set their true personal coming of age story against the backdrop of the rapid collapse of the Soviet government in Estonia. As illicit television antennas sprung up in Northern Estonia, rumors about the attempted murder of J.R. Ewing spread by word of mouth to the rural south, and the nation of Estonia was as gripped by the saga as the USA had ever been. Teenagers went to their school dances and imitated the disco moves they saw on television, clothing and hairstyles began to change radically, and things would never be the same. The government controlled media scrambled to create western-style soap operas and disco-saturated television programming that vaguely reinforced communist values, but it was far too little, and much too late. The genie was out of the bottle, Estonians were now in the grip of American television, and they began to dream that one day, they too would spend their days working in skyscrapers and their nights drinking fine whiskey by the pool, alongside their robot car. Synopsis courtesy of Rooftop Films.-- (C) Icarus
Art House & International , Documentary
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Jaak Kilmi
as Narrator
Oskar Vuks
as Jaak
Toomas Pool
as Toomas
Einar Kotka
as Young Nikolai
Aleksandr Aug
as Joosep's Father
Birgit Veemaa
as Joosep's Mother
Katrin Roosipuu
as Katrin Roosipuu, Toomas's Mother
Jaan Tootsen
as Narrator
Liina Vahtrik
as Narrator
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Disco and Atomic War (Disko ja tuumasoda)

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (3)

A playful compendium of archival footage, dramatic reconstructions with a surreal comic edge and solemn talking heads.

November 12, 2010
New York Times
Top Critic

It's the true story of how the Soviet government that ruled Estonia into the 1980s began to lose control when somebody discovered they could illegally tap into Western TV from neighboring Finland.

Full Review… | November 11, 2010
New York Post
Top Critic

If another contemporary nonfiction film makes a better case for the still-controversial tactic of blending scripted scenes into factual footage, I haven't seen it.

Full Review… | November 9, 2010
Village Voice
Top Critic

Don't be completely deceived by the film's light touch; Disco and Atomic War still makes a number of salient points.

Full Review… | November 19, 2010
NYC Film Critic

The kind of rare documentary that simultaneously informs and delights even those who don't care much about history or politics.

Full Review… | November 17, 2010
NYC Movie Guru

Idiosyncratic doc about how Western pop culture helped pull back and ultimately ripped down the Iron Curtain provides a rare look at life in pre-1990 Estonia. Politicos will be intrigued.

Full Review… | November 12, 2010
Film Journal International

Audience Reviews for Disco and Atomic War (Disko ja tuumasoda)


Disco and Atomic War is an entertaining and intriguing documentary about a lesser known aspect of the later years of the Soviet Union. It focuses on how people in Northern Estonia were able to peek out from behind the Iron Curtain through Finnish television and radio, which enables the people to learn about things such as, well, Disco. The way the information is presented is entertaining. They use clips of television shows and commercials of the time and tell amusing stories of the inhabitants of Tallinn (the capital of Estonia, located in the North), and of the powers that be, who tried to somehow control the "westernizing" of the local people. The stories are somewhat absurd, and provide some fun humor into this documentary, a genre of movie which usually isn't all that "entertaining". The effects of the subject matter, tv and radio, on the fall of the Soviet Union is blown a bit out of proportion, but that is normal for a documentary. This is an excellent film about a topic, that is not as well known, even by the younger people in Estonia, who weren't alive at the time. Final rating: 9/10

Chris Reintal
Chris Reintal

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