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The Singing Revolution

First, some history. Unlike the rest of Eastern Europe—you know, Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary—three countries were “absorbed” into the Soviet Union’s “sphere of influence” before World War II. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were swallowed whole by Stalin courtesy of a secret deal between the Soviets and Nazi Germany in 1939. The usual brutality and repression followed immediately.

Flash-forward to 1969, the 100th anniversary of Laulupidu, the Estonian song festival. In defiance of the Soviets, 30,000 people—yes, 30,000—sang “Land of My Fathers, Land That I Love,” a nationalist Estonian song. This was the beginning of a “nonviolent march to freedom,” a journey that ended with the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991, and is documented by filmmakers James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty in the film The Singing Revolution.

Reached recently via a sort of “conference call” by cell phone—they were in two different corners of the United States—they talked about their film.

The Tustys, longtime documentary filmmakers for public TV, first became aware of the story while on a teaching job in Estonia a few years ago.

“When we were living there, people would just start sharing stories,” remembers Maureen. “We’d be out to dinner with some new friends, and they’d start talking about this time period. I think there wasn’t anyone, who, when they talked about this, didn’t get choked up, and tie it into their family history.”

“We just started to realize how powerful the story was,” she adds. She soon realized that hardly anyone they talked with—in Western Europe or the United States—had ever heard the story.

“Very little of it [the Baltic protests against the U.S.S.R.] made the U.S. news,” James says.

“One of my favorite lines in the film,” James remembers, “is at the very beginning, and is ‘patience is a weapon, and caution a virtue.’ I think in the instantaneous gratification culture we live in in North America—and I don’t know, perhaps in Europe, too—[this] is just something we don’t understand. The profundity of how the Estonians did it.”

“And we have come to nickname it ‘the perfect storm,’ ” Maureen says. The serendipity, the confluence of all these events: The economic crisis in the Soviet Union, and the political actions they took. . . . They needed the mass demonstrations to show that the people were behind them. It all kind of worked in tandem, and not necessarily intentionally,” she says.

At first, the Estonians themselves didn’t see the importance of their own story.

“300,000 people singing a song in 1947, that would have been 300,000 people going to Siberia,” James notes.

He remembered telling Estonian friends, “You did it [in 1991], and you got away with it.”

The Singing Revolution opens tomorrow (Friday, March 21) at the Spectrum 8 Theatres (290 Delaware Ave., Albany). For showtimes, call 449-8995.

—Shawn Stone

Avenged Sevenfold

Southern California’s emo/cock-rock car wreck known as Avenged Sevenfold will headline the RockStar Energy Drink Taste of Chaos tour’s stop at the Washington Avenue Armory this Saturday. Their tourmates, including their California neighbors Atreyu and Britain’s Bullet for My Valentine, are drawn together by their love for bad tattoos, ‘80s-inspired guitar solos and emo-motional choruses. The mascara color alert for this show is dark, dark, dark, purple.

Interestingly enough, the above bands also will be joined by what is being billed as “Jock Revolution Invades America,” which is a number of well-known Japanese artists including Mucc D’Espairsray and the Underneath. These Japanese bands share a love for darkness and despair and mix overwrought melody with grand orchestral goth rock. This show should be something to hear. The mascara alert level for the j-rock extravaganza is deep onyx.

Avenged Sevenfold (and the rest) will thrash the Washington Avenue Armory (195 Washington Ave., Albany) at 5 PM on Saturday (March 22). Tickets are $35.25. For more information or to buy tickets, call the Armory box office at 694-7160 ext. 26.

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