The Singing Revolution Reviews
This is a very important film that every American should see to better appreciate what we take for granted.
[font=Century Gothic]That said, I would have to say that the documentary itself, while well done, was not exceptional. The documentarians did a good job of contacting most of the relevant parties, and they made this film close enough to the event that there were many who could contribute. Linda Hunt's narration was fine, but this is a film about how singing fueled a peaceful revolution -- it seemed like it should have had more zing. It was probably too much to expect something like "Broadway Melody" from [u]Singin' in the Rain[/u], but a little more flash would have made the film watching experience better -- the actual historical event was one worth capturing, and the filmmakers did an adequate job -- they could have done more. [/font]
directed by James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty
The Singing Revolution is a documentary film that demonstrates what is possible when art and collectivism meet on a massive stage. In the late 1980's and early ?90's, after suffering through decades of Soviet Occupation, the citizens of the little Baltic country of Estonia came together and literally sang for self-determination. The dramatic public displays of patriotism and hope showed emphatically that Soviet rule was something that needed to end sooner than later. The revolutionary outpourings of grief and frustration found their way into numerous nationalist songs that brought the people together and provided stark evidence that articulated what the general Estonian public had in mind when mapping out their future.
The film is a history lesson about the modern history of Estonia. The 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact signed by Germany and Russia divided the Baltic states into sizable chunks later to be devoured as each nation saw fit. First the Russians came in 1940 followed by the Germans who had invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Three years later the Russian Army invaded Estonia and this time the Soviets remained for nearly fifty years. The film is about the struggle to regain independence during the occupation.
The film focuses on Soviet President Mikhail Gorbechev?s policies of glasnost and perestroika which eased prohibitions against particular types of speech that challenged the authority of the governments of all Soviet territories. This opened the door for protests which inevitably led to mass demonstrations of singing at venues such as the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds. Up to 300,000 Estonian nationalists participated in these events which also included fiery, determined public speaking by political agitators. The images of the swelling crowd singing their own songs in perfect unison is deeply moving and emotionally gratifying. There is a strange scene in which Pro-Soviet Interfront members find themselves with no alternative but to make their way through the crowd of Estonians. The crowd parted and the Interfront group made their way through without incident. The film cites this moment as an emphatic sign that the Estonian peoples desperately wanted to gain their independence without bloodshed. By uniting in one mass force directing their energy to the same cause the Estonian people were able to do just that.
At one point during the occupation it was illegal to publically display the Estonian flag. There is a scene of a lone motorcyclist hoisting the flag as he rides around a track. Many of those interviewed for the film cite that at a seminal moment in their lives. There is a tremendous amount of Nationalist pride displayed in this film. The Estonian citizens are portrayed as fiercely loyal to the idea of Estonian independence. However, there is a substantial Russian population who are not exactly given a fair voice in this film. The concentration here is strictly on the values of independence and those who have voice opposition viewpoints are given short shrift and are not allowed an equal audience.
This is a film about small increments of heroism in the form of simple, catchy songs that apparently are known by nearly everyone. It is a striking contrast to this country where we barely know our own national anthem. Indeed, the citizens of Estonia seem eternally connected to their history, their culture and their land in ways that should give a Westerner pause if not outright shame. Singing is in the blood of Estonians as they have been attending huge public singing festivals for well over a hundred years. The film shows footage of one festival in the 1960's where after the allowed program of Pro-Soviet songs a little Estonian traditional song was slipped in under the Soviet?s noses. This led to more Estonian songs being sung at later festivals as suddenly a feeling of change was electrifying the air. One can feel the longing in the hearts of the Estonian people as they give of themselves in public demonstrations of support for freedom from the jaws of tyranny. It?s a film about a little guy being thrashed and harangued for many years while his prideful songs slowly lull the beast into oblivion. It?s certainly a film about the strength of unity in culture to overcome long-standing adversity and suffering.
Scores of Estonians lost their lives during the most recent occupations. This film seems perhaps to be for those who died before the victory was won. It truly is remarkable that something this pure and meaningful can happen anywhere on the planet. Strangely, it?s an example of how a nationalist art form, a holistic and regulated expression, can focus energy on the breaking down of outdated mores. It?s precisely what Hitler tried to do by Nationalizing art. Similar to the Singing Revolution, Hitler tried to generalize art, to strictly regulate what was considered by the Nazi?s to be art. He wanted people to all have the same reaction to the art that was approved. Thus, an entire population would convert the energy gained from viewing art collectively into a deep seated affirmation of the massive military exercises that have come to define the aesthetic power of the Third Reich. Art in this case was meant to impact one?s entire being the same way that singing in this revolutionary struggle is meant to enrapture ever facet of one?s existence.
In this film, the actions of the people are shown to influence public policy to the point that finally the two governments within Estonia essentially voted for independence. The Soviet Regime fell and this cataclysmic event led to the creation of the free Baltic States. This is one of those power to the people films that lives up to its billing. The people prevented the television tower from being overrun by Soviet soldiers. The people formed a two-million persons wide chain that embraced Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Such events galvanized the collective spirit which led to truly magical moments of psychic transference and the ultimate prize for a autonomous, unified Estonian state. This film is an inspiration that continues to resonate. The intensity of emotion transforms the film from what could have been merely sentimental to something of great power.
If in Darfur, Lebanon, Venzuela, Irak, Afghanistan where ever totalitarian regimes, screwed-up regimes, Dictators -to-be, blood thirsty fundamentalist, slefish rulers and I can go on... the people can rise-up and with "one song" can topple these "evil political doers"... instead of guns and blood.
This movie is the quintessencial exemple that there is always hope. Never give-up. It's a lesson of courage. A lesson of wisdom.
My hat off to the filmmakers James & Maureen Tusty.
My hat-off to the unique people of Estonia... who endured so much for centuries and with no bloodshed but a mere "song" they crushed the Soviet Empire!
This movie should get the Oscar for Best Documentary - or there is no justice!
A very powerful and moving demonstration of how people can make a real revolution without using violence.
If you know just a little about Estonia and Estonian history this is an absolute must. If you don't know anything about this little country you shouldn't miss the chance to get to know what Estonian have been incredibly able to do.