“The Singing Revolution” documents a simple and simply amazing story about a country that defeated and rid its oppressors not through armed warfare, but by song. No one planned or orchestrated the movement in Estonia, but as told by filmmakers James Tusty and Maureen Castle, who wrote the script with Mike Majoros, the singing movement sprang almost spontaneously from the souls of the people.
The story evolves without fanfare or mawkish renderings of melodramatic conflicts. Nor does it pick out or extol one character of Rockyesque proportions, which is why most of us were not drawn to the story through blazing headlines. No Lech Walesa here. No national hero who stands in front of tanks.
There are some notable contributions from songwriters, speakers and one quiet policeman who holed up in a radio station during the most perilous conflict, when it seemed as if the Soviet troops would overrun the place. After all, under Stalin, hundreds or thousands of Soviet citizens were encouraged to make Estonia their home. Now they had something to lose in a land that was not theirs.
The movie informs us of a history that evolved into a terrible time when the Germans conquered the land in 1939, only to be driven out by the Soviets, who ruled with their tight-fisted totalitarian regime. It was a time in which natives were dispatched to places such as Siberia and entire families disappeared. Some freedom fighters took to the woods, but there was little hope of overthrowing the oppressors. A proud people had no choice but to submit and employ “patience as a virtue.”
Their power lay in song, and the film documents how more than 30,000 people showed up in the town square to assert their patriotic, independent fervor with a continuum of music.
’The Singing Revolution’
DIRECTED BY James Tusty and Maureen Castle
SCREENPLAY BY James Tusty, Maureen Castle and Mike Majoros
NARRATED BY Linda Hunt
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
Men, women, children, and the tradition continues to this day.
From a political standpoint, “The Singing Revolution” astutely points out an irony that one hopes will not be noted or taken to heart by today’s dictators. Unlike Saddam Hussein, who created no opening, Mikhail Gorbachev provided a window of opportunity with his policies of glasnost and perestroika. With this relatively lenient policy of openness, the Estonians found the courage and motivation to assemble. In Tallinn, the capital, songfests sprung up, and despite the quibbling of certain opposing political factions and the objections of Soviet transplants, music reigned supreme.
“The Singing Revolution” tells this story with unvarnished candor.
The events are so simple, so devoid of melodrama that the filmmakers only have to sit back and let the story speak for itself. And that they do.
The result is a movie that instills hope and inspires confidence in firm, loud artistic diplomacy.