The Singing Revolution (2006)

A Film By
James & Maureen Tusty

Click Here to Order the Collector's Edition
Now Available
Exclusively through the Website


Pre-Order the Standard Edition DVD
(Available 2/2009 through Amazon)


Whether you're a parent, student, or concerned citizen-- the next time you get word that your local school district is in favor of cutting out arts and music programs (while per usual, leaving the physical education and sports departments unscathed from the budgetary axe), you may want to drop this wonderful three disc set in the mail and address it to the attention of lawmakers, superintendents, and basically anyone you know in a power position.

Guaranteed to leave a lasting impression as well as educate viewers on a topic that-- while in the news-- is woefully underrepresented in K-12 textbooks and 20th century history, this incredibly moving documentary by husband and wife filmmaking team James and Maureen Tusty recounts the agonizing struggle for the nation of Estonia to declare its rightful independence from hundreds of years of invading countries. A beautiful and highly coveted stretch of land that serves as a veritable Baltic sea gateway between Russia and Europe, for centuries, the small but proud country has faced annihilation, usurpers, violence and staggering attacks by neighboring countries all eager to retain control.

One of three Baltic states along with Lithuania and Latvia who endured the occupation of both Nazi and Soviet forces during the last century following the illegal Molotov-Ribbentrop pact negotiated by madmen Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin in 1939, the film chronicles the plight of its patriotic, proud, and incessantly patient people. Having been a short-lived independent European State in 1918, the Molotov-Ribbentrop passage put an end to their progress of economic prosperity, high rates of literacy, and success when the Soviets crossed the border in 1939 killing a thousand and shipping more than ten thousand off to slave labor camps in the Siberian Gulag. After they withdrew upon the arrival of the Nazis who later left as well, the Soviets returned and occupied Estonia for fifty years, ravaging the country wherein, after 5,000 years of living on their own soil, Estonians as a people almost ceased to exist.

Yet they remained strong and survived as some fled with the hopes to return when their nation was free, others retreated to join an underground resistance group in the woods called the "Forest Brothers," and family members were separated, imprisoned, killed, released and then the cycle continued onward. However, there was one tradition that began in 1869 that managed to rile their spirit that Estonia kept throughout the disarray-- namely the decision that every five years, citizens from all over the country traveled for miles to sing in The Song Festival, named "Laulupidu," which helped inspire greater solidarity. Likewise, it served a dual purpose in leading a subtle, nonviolent revolution that propelled them towards their inevitable stand against the communist forces until their reestablishment as an independent nation in 1991.

Proudly joining hands and voices to perform the songs of their land including their unofficial national anthem "Land Of My Fathers, Land That I Love," which derived from a century old Estonian poem-- the festival was a defiant act against their Soviet leaders. Likewise, their bold display of wondrous, harmonious civil disobedience in celebrating the one hundred year anniversary of the start of the festival re-energized the nation for the first time since what was deemed "The Year of Suffering," when the actions of Hitler and Stalin's forces forever changed the Estonian, European, and Soviet landscape.

In this stirring retelling, clocking in at roughly one hundred minutes which was released to rave critical reviews, the Tusty's have crafted a film that celebrates the importance of culture, unity, and using one's intellect as the ultimate weapon against oppressors. Filled with firsthand accounts, interviews, rare and archived news footage from all sides (including propagandist films from the former Soviet Union), this three-disc set available only through their website comes complete with a thirty-two page instructor guide and two additional DVDs containing more than four hours of heart-wrenching interviews, thirty printable historical documents, seven newsreels spanning two decades, fifteen maps of the area from 180 A.D.-1997, Estonian History Timelines, filmmaker commentary and more-- it's a must own historical and inspiring work that would augment twentieth century and global history classroom curricula.

While in my own experience, a majority of the curriculum spent on World War II history fails to look far beyond the attack on Pearl Harbor and experience in Nazi Germany, it's all too easy to forget how that horrific war shook up the entire globe and while this Collector's Edition 1.0 set focuses explicitly on Estonia, one must keep in mind that Lithuania and Latvia were undergoing similar hardships as the three countries linked together to form a human chain in a stunning act of resistance just before they were finally freed following the Gorbachev coup and Yeltsin's takeover.

One of those simply remarkable and increasingly rare documentaries that transcends the filmmaking medium to become not just a movie but an incredibly vital historical document, The Singing Revolution deserves a greater audience and a permanent place in library, museums, and educational institutions. And more than just by offering a terrific overview of the country's events and the reverence for its brace people, it also begs numerous questions throughout in its narration by Linda Hunt as viewers begin to question just how countries would react to such oppression today not to mention my disappointment with the complete lack of knowledge I'd received on the situation in my K-12 education.

Perhaps, in taking away our arts and music programs and in favor of standardized testing, the educational curriculum began growing much more narrow in its scope. And while of course, the athletic department never suffered, the release of this DVD helps augment our education and hopefully with enough of a push from well-meaning viewers, parents, students, and community members-- the history of the former Soviet Union (as well as study of numerous other parts of the globe) will also find its way into middle and high school classrooms.

And while I may be guilty of idealism, picking up the DVD (either in the collector's set or in the regular edition 2009 Amazon pre-order) and recommending it to others definitely won't hurt and moreover-- think of it as a cinematic revolution, if you will... unless, of course, you'd like to use the booklet to learn Estonia's unofficial national anthem.