Movie Website: www.singingrevolution.com
Your nation is small with barely a million citizens. Despite various occupations of over the millennia your culture has endured for at least 5,000 years. In this century you find your land occupied by the two most horrific totalitarian states the world has seen; first by the Soviet Union, then by the Nazi’s, and then by the Soviets again, for a total of fifty years. Some flee as refugees. Others are hauled of to concentration camps and gulags. Thousands of others are executed. Every attempt is made to suppress native culture. What do you do to survive? Sing!
The Singing Revolution is an independent film telling the story of the Baltic nation of Estonia under oppression from the late 1930s until the fall of the Soviet Union. Through a rich heritage of folk music, the Estonians were able to keep alive both their culture and the their hope of freedom. Dating back to the 1800s, the Estonians have gathered every five years for a nationwide music festival with a choir of 30,000 people and 300,000 attendees. These events during occupation, while giving surface allegiance to the USSR, also functioned as instruments of hope and defiance. When Gorbachev’s perestroika was initiated, mass gatherings eventually materialized where singing was a principle “weapon”.
The beginning of the film notes that the folk hero in Estonian culture is not the valiant warrior dominating others but rather the quite farmer who actively waits with great patience for the opportune moment to act. The film illustrates this cultural character beautifully. Through a series of opportune non-violent acts, the little nation of Estonia played a significant role in pushing the Soviet empire over the edge.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when ethnic Russians (living in Estonia) become angry about the challenges the Estonians are making the Soviet Union in 1989. Hundreds of them gathered around the capital building and became increasingly belligerent, eventually breeching the barricades and storming the building. Meanwhile, the Estonian political leaders put out a call on the airwaves for Estonians to come and save the capital. Thousands spontaneously emerged and surrounded the building, trapping the Russians inside. The Estonians stood outside chanting and singing. When the Russians had had enough, the Estonian crowd parted forming a path for the Russians to exit the building with no violence inflicted. The film captures a number of these events using film footage of the actual events.
This really is one of the most inspirational documentaries I’ve ever seen. It is a testimony to the human longing for freedom and justice, but here it was pursed through honorable means. If this were fiction, it would be dismissed as a fairytale. The film is still showing in some theaters around the country but I believe it will be released on DVD next month. Check out Singing Revolution for more details but if you get the chance to see this film in person its well worth you time (but bring hankies to wipe the tears at the triumphal ending.) Mrs. Kronicle and I give it a four thumbs up.
For an article from the Kansas City Star about the film click here.
Here is the official trailer: