Two musical documentary films showcase Estonia, Philip Glass

Estonia’s exceptional choral-music culture is put in context in “The Singing Revolution,” a film by James and Maureen Castle Tusty opening Friday at the Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., San Francisco.

The documentary is about the astonishing contemporary history of Estonia — ravaged by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union — losing tens of thousands to executions or deportation to Siberia. Through it all, the nation remained unified through the Laulupidu, the annual song festival begun in 1869.

The sight and sound of 30,000 people singing at the festival frames history as the climactic moment follows at another festival, in 1969, when the entire festival sang an Estonian song in nonviolent defiance of the Soviet prohibition.

The film’s choral performances are worth appreciating, but other aspects are equally, if not more, intriguing. Watching a sea of Estonians parting for the peaceful exit of thousands of ethnic Russians who had attempted to abort the independence movement is among one such moment that makes “The Singing Revolution” a highly recommended film. For information, call (415) 267-4893.

Screening at 3 p.m. today at the Kabuki, 1881 Post St., in the San Francisco International Film Festival is “Glass: a Portrait ofPhilip in Twelve Parts,” an Australian film by Scott Hicks.

The documentary follows 12 “mosaics” over several continents of the composer’s activities and performances. The film also traces the 70-year-old Glass’ life from his native Baltimore and the beginning of his career in New York City.

A must for fans of the composer, it’s also recommended as an introduction to his music. For more information, visit www.sffs.org.

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