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A Recommended Film – Disco and Atomic War

Popularity 6Viewed 6009 times 2017-2-27 01:54 |System category:News| Disco, Atomic, War, Estonia, Finland

It was been a lively couple of months to the new year that is 2017 around the world.  In my neck of the woods that is the U.S. – President Donald Trump has been the source of a good deal of humor and/or dread, no matter which part of the political spectrum.  Europe is a buzz with the idea that the E.U. will reeling with changes in France, the Netherlands, and elsewhere that will be greater than the ‘Brexit’ of last year.  P.R. China, much like Japan and Russia, are still trying to come to grips with the modern soap opera that is the Kim family in the DPRK – especially with the events that are unfolding in Malaysia.  It is with the focus on the DPRK that I was investing sometime at the Hinsdale Library, taking a look at their quite extensive foreign language film collection, that I found myself introduced to a quaint little slice of the Cold War – the Estonian film ‘Disco and Atomic War’ (


To quote the Icarus Films Website: “Winner of the Best Documentary prize at the Warsaw International Film Festival, this witty, charming, and provocative film recounts how in the mid 1980's, the nation of Estonia still lay firmly in the grip of the Soviet Union, and the repressive authorities controlled virtually all aspects of Estonian life. The totalitarian government's power was derived in no small part from their ability to censor cultural life and keep Western culture on the other side of the border. Rock and Roll was but a rumor and the only television shows on the air were dreary propaganda. But one day everything changed. Just a few miles across the border in Finland, a huge new television antenna was built that broadcast western signals in all directions--including directly into the heart of the Talinn, the capital of Estonia.


Filmmakers Jaak Kilmi and Kiur Aarma grew up in Talinn in the 80's, and in DISCO AND ATOMIC WAR they make use of wonderfully playful but credible recreations to set their true personal coming of age story against the backdrop of the rapid collapse of the Soviet government in Estonia. As illicit television antennas sprung up in Northern Estonia, rumors about the attempted murder of J.R. Ewing spread by word of mouth to the rural south, and the nation of Estonia was as gripped by the saga as the USA had ever been.


Teenagers went to their school dances and imitated the disco moves they saw on television, clothing and hairstyles began to change radically, and things would never be the same. The government controlled media scrambled to create western-style soap operas and disco-saturated television programming that vaguely reinforced communist values, but it was far too little, and much too late. The genie was out of the bottle, Estonians were now in the grip of American television, and they began to dream that one day, they too would spend their days working in skyscrapers and their nights drinking fine whiskey by the pool, alongside their robot car.


To say this film, and the accompanying film “Lotman’s World” on the Icarus Films DVD, is quirky would be an understatement – but there is an underlying charm to both films.  Given the arching themes of Semiotics (i.e. The study of signs and symbols and how they are used – per Merriman Webster’s Dictionary) in both films – I am drawn to the parallels in the activities by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People's Republic of China (SAPPRFT) and the former Estonian SSR officials – especially the Great Fire Wall and attempts to place a ‘steel net’ between Estonia SSR and Finland to block all TV signals.  Yet, much like policies that are ‘too little, too late’ – it appears that the preverbal genie has been let out of the bottle.  One only has to view the work of a pair of ‘vloggers’ with ADVChina ( and and their posted adventures around P.R. China to see the amount of influence that Western shows and culture has permanated the length and breath of the ‘common folk’.  Question is, can the powers to be in Beijing take the time to read ‘the Semiotics of Film’, and learn a path that the powers to be in Tallinn and Moscow failed to do?

Original Poster Art for the Film - with a few edits to avoid being 'too naughty'

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Reply Report tradervic 2017-3-10 21:20
Liononthehunt: A picture tells a thousand words, good one, though seemingly.
A thousands words could possibly be a thousand lies, if you watch a Nazi documentary cov ...
Hm... looks like you are finally getting to a point.  So... are you stating that this Documentary is a lie?  If so, on what grounds?

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