Jaak Kilmi’s documentaryDisco and Atomic War is a generally straightforward, lighthearted but serious-minded tale about citizens’ tireless efforts in 80s Soviet-occupied Estonia to receive Finnish television and radio signals despite the equally tireless efforts of the Soviets. Told through the voices of several now-grown Estonian children, including director Jaak, who might’ve not fully understood why they weren’t allowed to dance the disco or indulge in late-night showings of Emmanuelle, the film both educates and entertains its audience, painting an easily relatable portrait of kids who just wanted to have as much fun as American kids were having. While Disco and Atomic War consistently intrigues with a wide array of stories and interviews from those who fought against (and ultimately defeated) the censorship, it’s slightly frustrating that the film’s most charming anecdotes have in fact been manufactured by the filmmakers; the weekly letters that Jaak writes to his niece to offer the latest and greatest Dallas gossip (and which also double as a good amount of the film’s narration) were never actually written, he has revealed since completion of the film, and the Estonian schoolchildren’s revelation that they can sound like their beloved Knight Rider if they press their gas masks close enough to their faces wasn’t something the film’s subjects experienced but rather a tale written for this documentary. There’s something a little troubling and mystifying about a documentary in search of obscure history that spends so much time lying to its audience, regardless of how creative or charming these lies may be.
Opens November 12