If feature filmmakers had dared to invent the inspiring story of “The Singing Revolution,” they likely would be dissed by cynical critics as simplistic at best, schmaltzy at worst. Documentarians James Tusty, Maureen Castle Tusty and Mike Majoros take an unaffectedly straightforward approach to telling what narrator Linda Hunt aptly describes as “the story of how culture saved a nation,” detailing how, in the tiny and frequently occupied country of Estonia, resistance to Soviet rule was expressed and encouraged through folk songs during the post-WWII era. Stranger-than-fiction pic, which opened Dec. 14 in New York, could score in homevid and pubcast venues.
The documakers efficiently intertwine archival footage, talking-head interviews and Hunt’s understated voiceover in a history lesson structured as an emotionally and dramatically satisfying narrative. Despite the determined efforts of Soviet occupiers to repress their native culture, Estonians somehow managed to sustain their tradition of choral singing at events such as Laulupidu, a music festival held every five years. At the 1969 fest, thousands of Estonians defied authorities by repeatedly singing a patriotic song banned by the Soviets, fueling the nonviolent rebellion that eventually led to Estonia’s independence.