The Singing Revolution

About once a decade, my mother announces she wants to see a movie on the big screen. The last one was “The Fugitive” with Harrison Ford. Before that, it might have been “In Search of Noah’s Ark.” She’s no film buff. So when she said she wanted to see “The Singing Revolution” over the weekend, I dropped everything and went to the Little Theater with my mom, my sister, and her Estonian friend Maarit.

"The Singing Revolution" tells the story of 20th century Estonia, a small country overrun by Soviets after World War II and largely ignored by the West. American filmmakers James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty posit that singing kept Estonians feeling Estonian. More than that, singing fueled a bloodless revolution between 1987-1991, when hundreds of thousands of people gathered to sing forbidden patriotic songs and to push for independence. This was a familiar tale to Maarit, an American who keeps her traditional Estonian wool folk costume in storage.

I went into "The Singing Revolution" expecting, well, a lot of singing. But there wasn’t as much as I expected. Instead, we got a riveting history lesson about events I only dimly remember. Some of the footage was wrenching. Much of it came from home videos once smuggled out of the Soviet-occupied country to relatives in North America. In one incredible scene, a crowd of Estonians parts Red Sea-fashion to allow livid Russian protestors safe passage. Nobody gets hurt.

When it was over, I asked my mom if she had a quote for my blog.

“Bring Kleenex,” she said.

Maarit added, “Especially if you’re Estonian.”