The Singing Revolution

Mountain View Prods.

NEW YORK — Few true-life tales of nationalist pride are as moving as the one depicted in "The Singing Revolution."

James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty's documentary, about the ways in which music played a vital role in helping the small country of Estonia to throw off the yoke of Soviet oppression, presents a feel-good tale that is almost hard to believe. The film, narrated by Linda Hunt, is playing at New York's Village East Cinema.

For most of the 20th century, Estonia has been dominated by the Soviet Union, with the exception of a period during World War II in which it suffered invasion by the Nazis. Becoming a Soviet satellite country after the war, it eventually declared its independence in 1991, beginning a wave that ultimately would herald the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

That spirit of resistance is exemplified by the Laulupido Song Festival, founded in 1869. During the 1969 edition, about 30,000 singers gathered together to sing "Land of My Fathers, Land That I Love," which, like all nationalistic songs, had been banned by the Soviets.

The film provides a detailed narrative of the events that have overtaken the country in the past century and the ways in which music helped fuel its struggle for independence. Using copious amounts of fascinating archival footage as well as extensive interviews with numerous figures associated with the movement, it provides an uplifting depiction of vitally important political ends achieved via nonviolent means.

Frank Scheck

A Walk Into the Sea

Arthouse Films/Red Envelope Entertainment

NEW YORK — Two spectral presences haunt "A Walk Into the Sea," filmmaker Esther Robinson's portrait of her uncle Danny Williams. One is the subject himself, who apparently committed suicide at age 27 by carrying out the titular act late one night in 1966; the other is Andy Warhol, in whose Factory Williams toiled as a filmmaker and lighting designer, and who was also — if only briefly — the young man's lover.

A veritable cottage industry of Warhol-themed documentaries has sprung up in recent years, and it's easy to see why. This endlessly colorful figure serves as both a fascinatingly enigmatic character and an emblematic icon of his times.

He's a far more vivid presence in this film than Williams, who, as the many interviews included here demonstrate, is barely remembered by his cohorts in Warhol's group and is only briefly referred to in the artist's diaries. But the snippets of 16mm films he shot, featuring Warhol and such characters as Bridget Polk, Gerard Malanga and many others, vividly attest to his presence on the scene.

Williams, a Harvard dropout who briefly apprenticed with the Maysles brothers (Albert is interviewed here), designed and operated the light show for the multimedia "Exploding Plastic Inevitable" shows that featured the Velvet Underground.

He later became estranged from the Factory because of the jealousy of several of its other members and Warhol's eventual disinterest. Addicted to amphetamines, he moved back to his family home in Massachusetts. One night, he excused himself after dinner and was never seen again. His car was found near a cliff overlooking the sea, and his body was never found.

The ambiguity of his disappearance adds even more resonance to a story filled with vague recollections by the aged members of Warhol's coterie, whose lined faces contrast dramatically with the gorgeously youthful portraits captured in Williams' films.

Frank Scheck