The Singing Revolution

Freedom on their terms . . .

It's been a few hundred years since the US had to figuratively sing for its independence, but less than 2 decades since Estonians finally shed the Soviet yoke and found freedom. That the country just south of Finland and between Germany and Russia achieved their freedom not by force but as it were by culture is more remarkable than its million people facing off a country of hundreds of million. Thus forms the outline of a dynamic documentary about Estonian revolution.

The thousands of Estonians who met every five years in Tartu, as many as 30,000, sang patriotic songs despite cruel occupations by Germany and Soviet Russia. The symbolic resistance was accompanied by some deft diplomacy during Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost or freedom of speech and the break up of the USSR in the early 1990's.

James Trusty and Maureen Castle Trusty's documentary assembles archival footage of the struggle in the 20th century, uses the usual talking heads, some of whom were freedom fighters, and has the good sense to have an understated Linda Hunt narration. When these innocent throngs sing their nationalist songs, cinemaphiles can't but think of the French singing La Marseillaise at Rick's Cafe in Casablanca.

It all works to the extent that you will never forget the little country that could.