By Dr. David Schein–In January 2016, the World Affairs Council of Houston, (“WACH”), hosted something a little different for that organization. The documentary “Free 2 Rock” runs approximately 60 minutes and focuses on how rock and roll helped to bring down the USSR by showing the residents behind the “Iron Curtain” what life and freedom was like outside those borders.
The setting for the film is a period of history that is rarely discussed today since the fall of the Iron Curtain happened over 25 years ago. The fall is usually dated to November 1989, when the wall between East and West Berlin was torn down. The film includes scenes from that historic and uplifting event. Residents behind the Curtain were subjected to strict lifestyle controls while suffering limited household goods due to the failure of the USSR’s “planned economy.” The continued failure of that economy resulted in a meager standard of living for many, which included standing in line for bread and toilet paper on a routine basis. However, this film focuses on the deprivation of freedom due to the controls on the people’s lifestyles. For many years, they were not allowed to see any music or cultural materials from the rest of the world and certainly not American Rock and Roll music.
The documentary was produced by Nick Binkley, (see: https://www.nickbinkleymusic.com/about/) who has his own band and personally knew some of the Soviet rockers who were beaten, imprisoned, and in some cases, killed, due to their desire to share the freedom of rock music. After the showing by WACH, Mr. Binkley was interviewed and he shared some of his personal observations for about 30 minutes. This added a great deal to the understanding of the viewers as to how this amazing film was produced over a seven year period. He is basically on a fund-raising tour for the film since he is not wealthy and no major studio is behind the film to help promote it.
This is the link for the official trailer:
The film in places has the feel of home movies, but that adds to the impact of the story that is told. There are also some raw moments, so this is definitely a PG rating or higher. Some of the interviews and live performances in the film include: KGB General Oleg Kalugin, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Nye, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Stas Namin, Boris Grebenshikov and The Plastic People of the Universe.
This inspiring film tells an important story about the fall of the USSR that is rarely discussed.
Visiting Assistant Professor-Cameron School of Business, University of St. Thomas