Making the Grades
In a day when documentaries are becoming more focused on entertainment than information, one must dig a little harder to find a film that tells its true story using investigative interviews, careful research and emotional pictures. The Singing Revolution generously fulfills these requirements. It also gives a very personal perspective of what it would be like to have your country suddenly invaded and swallowed up by a larger aggressive power with a completely different political agenda.
Estonia, the northernmost country in the Baltic States, is separated from Finland by just a few miles of water. Near the start of the World War II, it was invaded by Russian troops. Then the Germans came. Then the Russians came back. And when the end of the war finally arrived, Estonians became pawns in a global game of chess. Forced to live under the umbrella of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), a cloud of despair—along with thousands of Russian immigrants and soldiers—covered the little country.
Needless to say, Soviet rule changed life in Estonia, and nowhere was this felt more than in their culture. As a people, they had a long tradition of using music as a binding force. Each year the citizens gathered by tens of thousands for a massive song festival to sing the music of the generations of people who preceded them. After the communist occupation, the music took on a more, shall we say “red” tone. But the Estonians had the perseverance to continue singing the music they loved, including the country’s national anthem—even with the disapproval of thousands of government observers.
This musical fortitude spilt into all aspects of their life. And this film documents decades of peaceful actions during which Estonians pushed, pulled and sang their way toward winning the freedom they once enjoyed. Meeting face-to-face with Russian military forces that could have easily overpowered them, these patriotic people demonstrated how principles and courage could hold back tanks and bullets.
Inspiring from start to finish, The Singing Revolution has a wealth of value for use at home or school. (The 3 DVD “Collector’s Edition” includes a license allowing the film’s use in K-12 classrooms, schools, churches and community organizations.) Parents and teachers of young audiences should be aware however of the inclusion of archival footage showing “real” people being shot by invading troops, along with scenes of bodies lying on the ground. Other moments of conflict are included, but end peacefully.
It seems there is never a period without political turmoil somewhere in the world. Yet, thanks to the people of Estonia and the husband and wife team who produced this documentary, we are strongly reminded that while we aren’t in control of what other people choose to do, we are in control of how we choose to react. Who could have guessed something as gentle as a song could have such a powerful force for change.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Singing Revolution.
How can we, as individuals, apply the examples shown by the Estonian people in our everyday lives? How could their attitudes change your family or community?