August 8, 2008
The Talk Gets Tiresome in ‘Singing’
By Jeff Vice Deseret News
THE SINGING REVOLUTION -- ** 1/2 -- Documentary feature about Estonian history; with English subtitles (Eastern European dialects); not rated, probable PG (violence, slurs)
There's more talking than there is singing in "The Singing Revolution." There's a whole lot more, as a matter of fact.
There are even a few times in which the talkiness of this documentary feature actually hurts it. While there are parts of Estonian and Eastern European politics and other history that do need to be explained for the film to make sense to audiences, the sheer preponderance of dialogue becomes a little tiresome.
Also, there are at least a few scenes that would be better served if we could hear the performances of selected songs rather than hear narrator Linda Hunt tell us about the significance of those musical pieces.
Still, it is an interesting subject. Filmmakers James Trusty and Maureen Castle Trusty look at Estonia, a tiny Baltic country that's been held by occupying armies (largely by the Soviet Union) since World War II.
As far as the film's title, it refers to a huge folk-singing festival that's been going on in Estonia for nearly 140 years. Though the festival originally began quite modestly, it became a way for the residents to protest the harsh treatment they received from their Russian oppressors.
This is the Trustys' first feature work, and that lack of filmmaking experience shows in places. The movie is a little unfocused and rambling.
And an early section of the film that discusses the so-called "forest brothers," revolutionaries who fought back against the Russian Army, could have been expanded considerably -- as well as served as the focus of its own documentary feature.
Fortunately, the interview subjects (who include festival performers and current and former Estonian leaders) are very intelligent and well-spoken. Their stories are what really holds out interest here.
"The Singing Revolution" is not rated but would probably receive a PG for some violent imagery (war footage and newsreel snippets of civil unrest), as well as a few derogatory slurs based on nationality. Running time: 94 minutes.
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