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The Singing Revolution

92 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Estonia s coveted position between Europe and Russia has lured wave after wave of occupiers. The nation s darkest chapter, though, dawned in 1939 with the arrival of the Soviets. It seemed this time that the Estonian nation might vanish completely; yet the Estonians waited, and fought, and sang and ultimately, survived.

THE SINGING REVOLUTION narrates the remarkable story of this tiny nation s struggle for independence, illuminating how the Estonians kept their identity alive even under the oppressive weight of the Iron Curtain through a rich tradition of song. Here, people have joined voices for centuries, and their Laulupidu an immense song festival offered glimmers of Estonian culture and connectedness in even the bleakest periods, proving to The Singing People that their national spirit still smoldered. When the Soviet nation finally began to crumble in the 1980s, the Estonians saw their opportunity: free speech became song, and song became a soaring anthem of independence.

Dramatically capturing the spectacular beauty of Estonia and the overwhelming sea of people and sound that brought this nation together, THE SINGING REVOLUTION celebrates a people who revolted with no weapons but their songs, no force but their unstoppable dream.

From the Contributor

Special Message from filmmakers James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty:
"Most people don’t think about singing when they think about revolutions. But in Estonia song was the weapon of choice when, between 1987 and 1991, Estonians sought to free themselves from decades of Soviet occupation. During those years, hundreds of thousands gathered in fields to sing forbidden patriotic songs and to rally for independence. The Singing Revolution documents how the Estonian people regained their freedom and helped topple the Soviet Union along the way.

We learned of the Singing Revolution while teaching filmmaking at an Estonian university in 1999. We not only were amazed by the story itself, we were amazed that we knew virtually nothing about it. Unarmed people facing down tanks; 300,000 people singing forbidden songs under the eyes of Soviet authorities (even the Soviets couldn’t figure out how to arrest people for simply singing); incredibly clever parliamentary and street theater maneuvers that vexed Moscow at every turn (including working within the Soviet system to officially make the hammer and sickle an illegal symbol in Estonia, implemented while still occupied by the Soviet Union!).

We called all our friends to ask if they had ever heard of the Singing Revolution. Virtually no one had. And even those who had heard the phrase knew close to nothing about what had actually happened.

We looked at each other as husband and wife (which we are as well as filmmakers) and said, “This story has to be told.” And if not us, who? If not now, when? And so we embarked on a four year journey trying to understand what was behind the miracle of this bloodless revolution.

This is not a history film. It is not even an Estonian film. It is an inspirational film. Although Estonia’s occupation began under the most murderous and oppressive means by both Soviets and Nazis, not a single person was killed during this 4-year revolution, and the strategies used to achieve this were just brilliant. David vanquished Goliath without even the use of a slingshot, and yet no one knows about it. Ironically, had people been killed during this revolution, it probably would have received press attention. We think the fact that no one was killed kept the story out of the international news.

From 1940-1946…in just six short years…Estonia lost more than 20% of its population through successive brutal occupations by Stalin, then Hitler, and then Stalin again. They suffered a persistent attempt at genocide…by direct executions at first, by population dilution second, and then by an attempt to wipe out all symbols of the nation of Estonia.

And yet, the people survived…and when their moment came, they seized it. They seized it and won a victory for all of humankind.

If this were fiction, you wouldn’t believe it. But we have the footage to prove it. The Singing Revolution took place in the late 1980s, and it was documented. There is no argument.

Creating “The Singing Revolution” changed our lives. We learned a lot about what humans are capable of enduring, and what they are capable of achieving, under the most horrible of circumstances.

We hope you consider watching “The Singing Revolution”. It might change your mind about how to change the world, and it might open your eyes to much greater and higher possibilities than you now think are possible. And as dark as some of the above history is, your faith in humankind will be uplifted and energized after viewing this film."

Product Details

  • Actors: People of Estonia
  • Directors: James Tusty, Maureen Castle Tusty
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: February 3, 2009
  • Run Time: 97 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001CQS7M4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,912 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Singing Revolution" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Jan Priddy on December 1, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
We miss things, we here in the most powerful nation on earth. I was alive when Estonia was fighting for its independence only I wasn't paying attention. Much of the world turned its back on this repressed nation. The music is glorious and the people are inspiring. "The Singing Revolution" proves that desire trumps death. They were not powerful, but they sang their way to freedom, a revolution bought with breath not blood. You will feel hopeful for the entire world after experiencing this film. It made me proud, it made me cry, it made me think. It reminded me that I should pay attention to the rest of the world.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A. Visser on December 5, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a film that is carried by its 'too wonderously powerful to be fiction' story. While we in the US were focused on confronting the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the peoples of the subjugated Baltic and Slavic nations were struggling to maintain their national identities and cultures. Each nation has a tale to tell (Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution, Ukraine's Orange Revolution, Georgia's Rose Revolution) This film shows us how the people of Estonia sang their culture and nation through this ordeal. Although I agree with much of what the other reviewers have written regarding the technical filmaking aspects of this film (somewhat lacking in deep individual character development), I had to give "The Singing Revolution" five stars for the power of the story itself. See this film and revel in a triumph of true strength over opression!
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By colmlt on February 12, 2009
Format: DVD
Having lived in Tallinn from 1999 to 2001, I was particularily interested in the Singing Revolution when it came out to theaters around the country. When the DVD was produced, I am sure I was one of the first to purchase it. This is a compelling story of a country and its people who struggled to maintain their cultural identity from the 40s to the early 90s in the face of severe opposition at the hands of the Soviets. Having lived there, I was able to learn first hand about the struggles so poignantly depicted in the DVD. Since I have received the DVD, I have shared it on many occasions with friends and family. It is a story that needs to be told to everyone. You won't be disappointed when you purchase and view this documentary.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kairus on April 20, 2009
Format: DVD
I saw the movie in a theatre last year, and just watched it again on a DVD. What a story and a lesson in history!!! I wonder how many people know that the Soviet Union was anything but a big happy family? That the Baltic nations (and many more...) were held captive behind the Iron Curtain against their free will? That there was genocide going on and the outside world had no idea?! Makes me wonder about Cuba, China and other places like that today...
I enjoyed the movie from the very beginning until the very end, but there were 3 scenes that were exceptionally powerful:
1) The 2 Estonian policemen (these guys had some balls!!) protecting the TV tower inside while unarmed locals with linked arms were standing guard outside against the approaching tanks and massive numbers of Soviet soldiers.
2) Over a million people creating a human chain through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by joining hands.
3) The scene where the average (unarmed, of course) Estonians went to protect their Parliament building from hordes of hostile Russians - and after surrounding them, peacefully parting ways to let the enemies go through. That sight was just so... CIVILIZED that it was almost surreal!
I could keep on going but I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet. (Oh, I cannot help myself, just one last thing - the scenes where 30,000 people were singing together! UNREAL!!! And the music is beautiful.)
I highly recommend this movie to anyone interested in any of the following subjects: culture, history, USSR and fall of the Evil Empire, choral music, ideas on how to start a peaceful revolution of your own, proof of why communism doesn't work and why democracy is the way to go.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Liisa Mai Petersen on June 20, 2009
Format: DVD
This movie is uplifting. It tells the story of the tiny nation of Estonia and its non-violent declaration of freedom from the Soviet Union. You do not have to be Estonian to appreciate the human elements of this masterful film. 5 stars!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Erik Gfesser VINE VOICE on December 5, 2009
Format: DVD
This documentary about the eventual independence of embattled Estonia, one of the Baltic States that was for decades just a part of what was then known as the USSR, or Soviet Union, is extremely moving, not just due to the end result, but the means. Revolution through song? Absolutely. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last head of state of the USSR, and the only Soviet leader to have been born after the October Revolution of 1917, introduced the concept of "glasnost" that quickly, unintentionally opened the door to public displays of Estonian patriotism, including singing. The heart of this documentary consists of footage of the Estonian masses singing in the open air, combined with interviews with organizers, although this reviewer found the included collection of early newsreels well compiled as well, especially that of the Yalta Conference during which Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin decided the fate of postwar Europe (including the agreement to permit the ethnic cleansing of millions of Eastern European Germans of which this reviewer is a descendant). If only all freedom could be granted through peaceful demonstration! Despite one's worldview or Weltanschauung, how can anyone argue with the motives behind the masses of a people stripped of their identity and incorporated into a Socialist state, but still venturing to publicly proclaim "Creator, Protect Estonia" en masse? Well recommended documentary to anyone in the West who has lost sight of the precious state of being called "free".
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