Movies Music

Sita Singing the Blues at the Pacific Cinémathèque

February 21, 2012

One of my earliest memories of childhood was attending potlucks and ‘family parties’ with various friends, and relatives, of my parents generation, mostly occurring at the household or within the community buddhist’s temple of the Vancouver-based, Southeastern Thai population.

As you may already be aware of, there is a distinctive lack of younger peers at these events, my interests at these social ‘parties’ turned towards the well-stocked bookshelves and libraries of whomever household’s we were inhabiting for the evening.

It was during my 11th year that I discovered the Ramayanadha , an ancient Sanskrit epic that focuses on the adventures of various figures within the Hindu mythological pantheon. And while the subject may have been beyond my grasp of knowledge and understanding at the time, opening the ‘tome and discovering these rich histories of heroes and trickster figures, in illustrations and descriptive stories, is still one of my most cherished memories.

In 2008, there was an animation-film adaptation of the epic from the perspective of Sita/Lakshimi, the lover of Rama/Vishnu and, due to the Creative Commons license, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to watch the entire series via Youtube.

This week, almost 4 years later since first launched, the film will be showcasing at the Pacific Cinémathèque between Wednesday, February 22, 2012 (8:30pm) and Thursday, February 23, 2012 (8:30pm). Sadly, I will be working on a last-minute digital narratives project for my interaction design class, but if you have a few free hours to spare in a mid-week evening, this movie will dazzle you with the colorful animation and 1920s snappy jazz music.

Official Review

USA 2008. Director: Nina Paley
Voices: Reena Shah, Debargo Sanyal, Aseem Chhabra, Bhavana Nagulapally, Manish Acharya, Nina Paley

In the ancient Sanskrit epic The Ramayana, Hindu goddess Sita is separated from, and then scorned by, her beloved husband Ram. In contemporary New York, Nina (filmmaker Nina Paley) receives an email from her husband, who has recently moved to India. Subject: DUMPSVILLE. Two women, separated by centuries, feel an irresistible urge to sing the blues — with the voice of 1920s jazz torch singer Annette Hanshaw.

Before Sita Sings the Blues, the longest animated film Paley had made ran but four minutes; for five years after her break-up, she toiled on her home computer to craft this 82 minutes of dazzling animation.

And there are more remarkable back-story twists to the tale: Sita may be the first animated feature released under a Creative Commons license, which permits free usage — a move necessitated by complicated copyright issues that arouse over its use of old songs Paley believed were in the public domain. For a time, these issues prevented from Sita from being screened at all. Ultimately, Paley had to borrow $50,000 to pay for music rights. We’re paying screening fees, by the way — some of which, we’re told, will be used for payments on the loan!
“To get any film made is a miracle. To conceive of a film like this is a greater miracle.” (Roger Ebert). Colour, 35mm. 82 mins.

via Sita Sings the Blues | Pacific Cinémathèque.

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