Tuesday, January 12, 2010

sita sings the blues

Have any of you seen the movie Sita Sings the Blues? Movies aren't something that I tend to ever talk about on this blog, although not because I don't love them (because I very much do). I don't have a good reason for this omission at all, but I've decided to do something about it today. Basically, Sita Sings the Blues is an animated retelling of the ancient Indian epic the Ramayana. Rather than focusing on Rama, an avatar of the deity Vishnu, who is the traditional hero of this tale, this movie focuses instead on his wife, Sita, and her story of devotion and heartache. The movie is narrated by three shadow puppets, who argue over the exact details of the Ramayana. It's the movie's musical numbers, however, where the recordings of songs by jazz singer Annette Hanshaw are used, as if sung by Sita herself, that are truly the highlight of this film. With multiple animated styles throughout, including one simply-drawn one that is used to tell the tale of the animator's own heartbreaking story of lost love and betrayal, this 82-minute film is lovely, engaging and surprisingly funny.

Sita Sings the Blues is currently playing at the IFC Center in New York, which is where I saw it this past weekend. For all of you in the New York area, trust me when I say that this was $12.50 well spent. What was really great was that Nina Paley, the amazing lady who wrote, directed, animated, and basically did everything for this film, stopped by after the movie to take questions, something that she apparently does quite often. How cool is that? If, however, you don't live in NYC, you still have the chance to see this wonderful film, because Paley decided that she would offer Sita Sings the Blues to the world, for free. Yep, you heard that right. As Paley has explained about this decision:

I hereby give Sita Sings the Blues to you. Like all culture, it belongs to you already, but I am making it explicit with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. Please distribute, copy, share, archive, and show Sita Sings the Blues. From the shared culture it came, and back into the shared culture it goes. You don't need my permission to copy, share, publish, archive, show, sell, broadcast, or remix Sita Sings the Blues. Conventional wisdom urges me to demand payment for every use of the film, but then how would people without money get to see it? How widely would the film be disseminated if it were limited by permission and fees? Control offers a false sense of security. The only real security I have is trusting you, trusting culture, and trusting freedom.
Pretty interesting, right? I had no idea about any of this before seeing the movie over the weekend, which has gotten some fantasic reviews, by the way (here is what A. O. Scott from The New York Times said). You can read more about Sita Sings the Blues, download or watch the movie, buy Sita merchandise, and basically have all of your questions answered, at the Sita Sings the Blues website.


  1. Don't fret if you didn't catch the film at IFC! It's available on DVD on Amazon and Netflix and the DVD is loaded with fun extras! Enjoy!

  2. You will be added to my queue. Yes. You will...


Thanks for your comments - they mean the world to me!