“What role can singing play when a nation is faced with annihalation by its neighbors?” asks narrator Linda Hunt in James Tusty’s new Estonian historical documentary The Singing Revolution. In this case, the answer is “plenty.” The Singing Revolution is a moving documentary that, among other things, explores the years between 1986 and 1991 when members of the Baltic country of Estonia fought to rid themselves of the decades-long Soviet occupation. In the words of the documentary itself, it is a “story of how culture saved a nation.”

Including an in-depth and engaging look at the history of Estonia (including a good deal of information about Stalin’s repressive regime in the ’40s and Gorbachev’s “perestroika” and “glasnost” in the ’80s), the film somehow manages to encapsulate both the information of a History Channel special and the entertainment value of a feature documentary. All of the history leads up to the Laulupido song festival (a gigantic singing festival held in Estonia every year) where 30,000 Estonians take the stage and hundreds of thousands of audience members express their pride in their heritage and their dedication to maintaining their freedom.

The exploration of peaceful action leading to the freedom of a country is the most rewarding part of this film-watching experience. There are several incredible examples of people working together to actively seek freedom without resorting to violence. From the 600 kilometer human chain that reached across Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia to the surrounding of tanks by civilians when the Russian national guard was sent in. The 90-minute feature is an especially timely treat as it displays a prime example of creating change “not by violence but through creating a democratic alternative.”

Currently making the festival rounds and appearing in NY and LA, the film also won both the Audience Favourite and the Jury Prize at the 3rd Annual Estdocs Festival at the end of October.

Zach’s Rating: A-
Perfect For: A moving, informative documentary about peaceful revolution
Stay Away if: Peaceful revolutions don’t interest you as much as violent coups

For more information on The Singing Revolution, and for theatrical screening dates, visit the film’s homepage

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