Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Singing Revolution

The Singing Revolution is a limited-release documentary movie telling the story of how national unity through traditional singing led Estonia to free itself from the Soviet Union:
The Singing Revolution is the name given to the step-by-step process that led to the reestablishment of Estonian independence in 1991. This was a non-violent revolution that overthrew a very violent occupation.

It was called the Singing Revolution because of the role singing played in the protests of the mid-1980s. But singing had always been a major unifying force for Estonians while they endured fifty years of Soviet rule.
Music has been central to Estonian culture for centuries. Although Estonia is one of the smallest countries in the world, it nonetheless has one of the largest collections of folk songs.

But Estonians have historically used music as a political weapon as well. It is said that song was used in protest of the German invaders of the 13th century, and also in resistance to the Russian occupation under Peter the Great in the 18th century.

In the 19th century, Estonians started a song festival tradition called Laulupidu, where choirs from around the country come together to sing for days. 25,000 to 30,000 people sing on stage at the same time. But the founding of Laulupidu was as much an expression of the desire for self-determination and independence as about song.
“The young people, without any political party, and without any politicians, just came together ... not only tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands ... to gather and to sing and to give this nation a new spirit,” remarks Mart Laar, a Singing Revolution leader featured in the film and the first post-Soviet Prime Minister of Estonia. “This was the idea of the Singing Revolution.”

James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty’s "The Singing Revolution" tells the moving story of how the Estonian people peacefully regained their freedom--and helped topple an empire along the way.
The reviewer from the New York Times says,
Imagine the scene in 'Casablanca' in which the French patrons sing 'La Marseillaise' in defiance of the Germans, then multiply its power by a factor of thousands, and you've only begun to imagine the force of 'The Singing Revolution'.
I haven't seen it, but it sounds good!

Petition for a screening in a theater near you here.


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