Disco & Atomic War

A lighthearted and entirely convincing approach to explaining how the communists lost the Cold War.

Adopting a highly idiosyncratic, lighthearted and yet entirely convincing approach to explaining how the communists lost the Cold War, Estonian-Finnish docu “Disco & Atomic War” reps the latest sprightly effort from consistently original Estonian helmer Jaak Kilmi (“Revolution of Pigs”). Blending dramatic reconstructions with talking heads and archival footage, “Disco” was made for TV and looks it, but could still do a short hustle at fests.

Pic argues that Finnish telecasts of Yank series “Dallas,” soft-porn classic “Emmanuelle” and disco-dancing footage won over the hearts and minds of Estonian auds to capitalism’s pleasures, paving the way for the breakup of Soviet Union. Roughly half the pic soberly recounts how Finnish television from the 1950s onward broadcast “subversive” ideas to Estonia that ultimately undermined Soviet cultural hegemony. But in order to illustrate how macroeconomic forces impacted individual lives, Kilmi includes dramatized scenes showing, for instance, his rural cousin Urve (Gerda Viira) reading the latest “Dallas” plot developments to the whole town. Interviewees include not just historians and television-industry notables, but also guys who made TV aerials from scrap metal. Result is both charming and informative.

Disco & Atomic War


  • Production: An Eetriuksus (Estonia)/Helsinki Filmi Oy (Finland) production. (International sales: Estonian Film Foundation, Tallinn.) Produced by Kiur Aarma. Co-producers, Aleksi Bardy, Annika Sucksdorff.   Directed by Jaak Kilmi. Screenplay, Kiur Aarma, Jaak Kilmi.
  • Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Manfred Vainokivi; editor, Lauri Laasik; music, Ardo Ran Varres; animation, Janek Murd; costume designer, Liisi Eesmaa. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 19, 2009. Estonian, English, Finnish, Russian dialogue. Running time: 80 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Hagi Shein, Edward Lucas, Georgi Potsheptsov, Esko Salminen, Sakari Kiuru, Arvo Sildnik, Nikolai Haug, Gerda Viira, Oskar Vuks, Toomas Pool, Jaan-Joosep Puusaag, Einar Kotka, Aleksandr Aug, Birgit Veemaa, Katrin Roosipuu.
  • Music By: