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by Lela Scott MacNeil
November 8th, 2010

Go see the film Spout.com called a “a funny, inventively made work of true-life science fiction” THIS FRIDAY, November 12th at Cinema Village in New York City.

It’s not nice to play favorites, but sometimes you can’t help it. One of my favorite films from our 2010 Summer Series was the wry and witty Disco and Atomic War, about the power of pop culture to vanquish evil and oppression.

The film tells the story of Estonia in the 1980’s, a place still held tightly in the fist of the Soviet Union. The overarching and suffocating control was maintained in large part by the superpower’s ability to block Estonia from any exposure to Western culture. Rock & Roll was but a rumor and the only television shows on the air were dreary propaganda.

Until 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 Estonia’s capital, Talinn.  A band of maverick engineers and amateur electronics enthusiasts realized what was going on and quickly rejiggered their Soviet televisions, modifying them so that they could receive the Finnish television signals.

Watch the Trailer, then go see the movie:

Soon enough, word began to spread that the world on the other side of the iron curtain did not appear to match the descriptions provided by the government propaganda. The Estonian citizens had been told that in America and Western Europe the economies were already collapsing at that the pawns of capitalism lived in utter squalor. But each night the people of Talinn pulled down the shades  and watched the stars of the TV show Dallas living in huge mansions and luxuriating by their pools; they saw tightly clad Europeans disco dancing to music unlike any they had heard before; and perhaps most importantly, they heard the voice of David Hasselhoff’’s artifically intelligent robot car.

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.

Filmmaker Jaak Kilmi grew up in Talinn in the 80’s, and in Disco and Atomic War he makes 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.

I loved it, and it seems the critics agree with me. As Variety said, it adopts a “highly idiosyncratic, lighthearted and yet entirely convincing approach to explaining how the communists lost the Cold War.” Spout.com called it “a funny, inventively made work of true-life science fiction,” and NOW Magazine deemed it “a witty, insightful and thoroughly entertaining political thriller.”

So if you missed it this year at our summer series, or if you’ve been dying to take your friends and see it again, you’re in luck, because it opens THIS FRIDAY, November 12th, at Cinema Village.

AND if you live in L.A., you won’t have to wait that much longer, because it opens there on November 26th at Laemmle’s Sunset 5 Theater.

Don’t live in either New York or L.A.? Check out when Disco and Atomic War is coming to a theater near you.

Want to see YOUR movie at next year’s Rooftop Films Summer Series? Submit it today.

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About Rooftop Films

Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

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