Directors: James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty
Genre(s): Documentary, Music
Runtime: 94 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
One of the landmark chapters in the fascinating histories of the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) was the Singing Revolution in the late-1980s and early-1990s, whereby the people of those three Soviet-occupied lands campaigned for independence through the power of folk-singing. This documentary covers the struggle for freedom in Estonia, which was peaceful (there would be some bloodshed in Latvia and Lithuania, which is briefly touched on). This is an intriguing and powerful movie that sheds light on a subject that should be better known in, say, the United States.
The thorough The Singing Revolution, narrated by Linda Hunt, provides an interesting overview of Estonian history from World War II on. During that war, Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union invaded the Baltic states first (in agreement with the Nazi regime), followed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, and then the conflict concluded with the region once again in Soviet hands. As a way of keeping national identity alive, the Estonian people turned to folk songs and festivals.
That being said, this documentary is about more than just singing. It almost feels like a political thriller at times, as it delves into the world of the Estonian independence movement and the Soviet government’s response to it. There’s a tense standoff at a Tallinn (the Estonian capital) broadcasting tower that’s one of the highlights of the movie. The sight of thousands of Estonians singing tunes while waving their country’s flag in the middle of a totalitarian occupation is also inspiring.
Actually, there’s not as much singing as I thought there would be in The Singing Revolution. Still, it’s a must-watch documentary with lots of clips of interviews from the people who lived through those trying times (an Estonian Forest Brother – one of the guerrillas in the Baltic states who violently resisted Soviet occupation during the Second World War and the years following it – even gets his say). You don’t really have the whole picture of what went down during World War II and during the finale of the Cold War until you are familiar with the Baltic states’ roles in those events.
My rating is 8 outta 10.