R.I.P. Roger Ebert

I am so grateful I got to meet Roger Ebert in 2009, when he screened Sita Sings the Blues at Ebertfest. He couldn’t speak then, but he stood onstage while his computer’s synthetic voice read his comments and looked intently in my eyes to make sure I was taking it in. He really wanted me to receive his gift, which was hard because it was so generous.

Roger Ebert and Nina Paley at Eberfest 2009. Photo by Chris Anderson

Here is his longer review of Sita Sings the Blues, which brought many, many viewers to it.

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The Blue Carpet

Through this cinéma vérité documentary, you too can experience what it’s like to be a nobody on the red (actually blue) carpet, navigate ridiculous security theater, shake the hands of countless strangers, smile nervously, and above all, lose.

Featuring Nina Paley, Alistair Milne, Steven Beer, and dozens of celebrities and/or nobodies whose names I forget and whose permission I don’t have, so sue me. Camera: Nina Paley, with Steven Beer. Edited by Nina Paley in 2011.

Dear Iceland

Dear Iceland,

I really want to visit your country in early to mid October. A festival in Sweden has invited me to speak around October 14-16, and would like to make a stopover before or after or both. I am greatly intrigued by Iceland’s Modern Media Initiative*. Might there be some way I could speak at a university there, or at least meet Icelanders involved with media reform and free speech issues?

Love,

–Nina

*P.S. OK, not just the Modern Media Initiative. I’m also intrigued by your giant thermal pools.

The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa Close to Reykjavik, Iceland

The Betty Boop Festival

Boy have I been remiss in posting news. First item: I spent last weekend in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, attending the Betty Boop Festival.

There I learned about the fascinating subculture of Betty Boop collectors. Betty was big in Japan in the 1930’s – I had no idea. I wish there were pictures of Japanese Betty collectibles online I could share with you, but there aren’t; maybe Betty collectors are all cagey due to the intense licensing restrictions that surround the character.

I also learned more about animation legend Grim Natwick, who grew up in Wisconsin Rapids before moving to LA and changing cultural history.

I met a lot of people including Madison filmmaker Robert Lughai, who blogged this Boop Festival report with photos. I also met the venerable Maggie Thompson of the venerable Comic Buyer’s Guide, who shares her Boop Festival report.

Sita at AFI Fest! Grauman’s Chinese Theater Nov. 3rd

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Sita Sings the Blues is an official selection at LA’s American Film Institute festival! She’ll be screening in 35mm on a gigantic screen in the 1,100-seat Grauman’s Chinese Theater:

10:00am on Tuesday, Nov. 3
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
(big house on Hollywood Blvd., not Mann’s Chinese Six on 3rd floor H&H complex)
6925 Hollywood Blvd., LA, CA 90028

Parking at Hollywood & Highland complex
Enter on Highland at East side or Orange at West side

Thanks, AFI!

I’m outta here

I’ll be in Europe until October 17 (on which date I will be speaking at MoMA!) so I may be virtually non-existent online. Or not, depending on how many free wireless connections are available and how well my netbook holds up.

Again, I’m gonna be in:

France:
September 25 – NancyA l’ère Libre Festival de la culture Libre
September 26 – Pessac, near Bordeaux
Journée des Cultures Libres
Armenia:
October 3-6 – YerevanReAnimania Animation Festival
London:
Oct. 14-16 – Power to the Pixel Conference

Have fun while I’m away! Don’t burn the house down!

Sita comes “home”

Sita Sings the Blues is going to screen in Trivandrum, Kerala, at the 2nd International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala.

Kairali Theatre on  20/06/09 at 6.15 pm

I couldn’t find an official web site, but there’s a blog about the festival here.

I was living in Trivandrum when I read my first Ramayana, and started drawing characters from it, which eventually became Sita Sings the Blues. I won’t be attending this festival, but I’m thrilled Sita will.

Back from Nerd Central

And crazy busy. Chicago and Urbana and Ebertfest were great, amazing, beyond my ability to emotionally comprehend, I’ve never had a week like that before. Then to top it off, Sita won Best Narrative Feature at the Indian Film festival of Los Angeles, and moved to #1 on Critical Consensus. That’s just nuts.

Anyway, it was great being back in Urbana, my hometown, where nerds are made as well as born. I was raised nerd, by nerds, and it’s only a fluke that I appear to be an artist; my heart belongs to nerd-dom. Want proof? Here I am visiting family friend, genius, and art-supporter Theo Gray at Wolfram Research:ninatheo.jpg
My Free Culture activism is nerdy too, inspired as it is by the Free Software movement. Theo doesn’t like it, and made fiercely pro-copyright arguments as only a proprietary software nerd can.

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For contrast, here’s a picture of me with Richard Stallman in New York:
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Whose side am I on, anyway? The side of NERDS!

Back to Illinois

I left my hometown of Urbana, IL, almost 21 years ago, with dreams of becoming a new age crystal-wielding hippie. I was 20 years old. Now I’m 40 (almost 41!) and will be returning with a feature film, for a film festival that didn’t exist when I was growing up. But first: the University of Chicago!

Who’da thunk back in 1988, that I’d be blogging about this in 2009? We couldn’t even imagine blogs back then.

Duke University tonight – January 26

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M Jan 26 Griffith ( 6pm-6:45pm) | Special Events — prelude to the 7pm screening!
‘Face to Face’ — A public dialogue about copyright, public domain, and filmmaking with public domain expert Jennifer Jenkins and independent filmmaker Nina Paley

M Jan 26  Griffith ( 7pm ) | FVD Showcase (screening & discussion)
Sita Sings the Blues
 (Nina Paley, 2008, 82 min, USA , in English, Color, 35mm)
Director Nina Paley takes an innovative approach to the typical break-up story with this whimsically animated film. Based on RAMAYANA, SITA SINGS THE BLUES follows two broken relationships: Nina’s.– followed by a discussion/Q&A with director Nina Paley + Prof. Srinivas Aravamudan (Dept. of English)!

My Chanukah Miracle

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So there I was at the Dubai International Film Festival last week, and I forgot to bring my mobile phone charger. Usually my Blackberry’s battery conks out after less than 2 days, whether I make calls or not. But lo! That single charge lasted through the entire festival, and even worked when I got back to New York! 6 days of battery use on one charge. Blessed art Thou O Lord Our goD, King of the Universe! Happy Chanukah!

Sita in Dubai

Here are Sita‘s upcoming screening dates at the Dubai International Film Festival:

1.Monday, December 15, 18:15, Festival City, Cinema 8*
2.Wednesday, December 17, 18:30, Mall of the Emirates, Cinema 6*

Does this blog have any readers in Dubai? Comment away. Maybe I’ll get to meet my comrade-in-death-threats-from-Hindutvas, MF Hussein, who lives in exile there.

A sweeeet letter

Dear Ms. Paley,

I had the pleasure of watching a showing of “Sita Sings the Blues” at the Denver Film Festival this past weekend.  I was thrilled by the insightful, witty, and often times hilarious telling of Sita’s story.

I am a first generation Indian woman, and I was equal parts intrigued and wary about “Sita Sings the Blues” when I first heard about it.  I was intrigued because Sita’s part in the Ramayana has always bothered me and I was curious to see how her story would be told from a modern feminist perspective.  I was wary because, as an Indian-American, I have seen aspects of the Indian culture mutated and exploited in ways that are, frankly, offensive.  “Sita Sings the Blues” exceeded all of my expectations and I came away from the showing very satisfied.

My personal favorite part of the feature was the commentary about the Ramayana by the three puppets.  I felt a strange sense of deja vu, as I am certain I have had many of the conversations before with my parents and siblings.  From the apparent incongruity of Sita throwing jewels when she was supposedly in her Sanyasi clothing, to ruminating on exactly what happened when and what is the pronunciation for that demon’s name!

Every part of the story spoke to me.  It was apparent that you had extensively researched the Ramayana in the making of this film.  Thank you for giving Sita her much needed voice to sing the blues.

I have to admit, the only part of the movie experience that was annoying to me was trying to articulate to my friends the reasons why I enjoyed the film so much.   The experience was visceral for me, and it almost defies an intellectual, oral explanation.

I was saddened to hear that this film would not be released for widespread circulation or for DVD release.  This is a story that I would have liked to share with my family and friends and make a part of my lexicon of Hindu mythology.

If there is anything that I can do to enable this film to be widely circulated, please let me know.  I would be more than happy to write letters, start petitions, etc.  I don’t know enough about the film industry to intuit what needs to be done, but I’ll take whatever suggestions you care to give.

Again, a big, capital THANK YOU for making this film.  It is brilliant. 

 –Sima Patel
(blogged here with permission)

November Sita screenings

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We have a whole mess o’ festival screenings coming up in November. The ones I will actually be at, in person:

NEW YORK, Nov 8 and 9:

Saturday, Nov. 8, 11:00 am
Sunday, Nov. 9, 11:00 am
IFC Center (323 6th Ave @W 4th St., Greenwich Village)

These matinee screenings are part of the New York Children’s Film Festival. (Sita isn’t exactly a kid’s movie, but it plays very well to older kids and teens and their parents)

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 13:

Nov. 13: 7:00 pm and 9:15 pm with a reception in between.
Opening the San Francisco International Animation Festival
Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema (Battery @ Clay st, downtown SF)

NEW YORK again:

Thursday Nov. 20, 6:00 pm
Saturday Nov. 22, 3:00 pm

MoMA (11 W. 53 Street, between 5th & 6th aves)
In the Film exhibition Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You (Gotham Award nominees)

Monday November 24: Panel Discussion
The five nominees for this year’s Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You award gather for a panel discussion illustrated with film clips. Program 90 min.
MoMA‘s Theater 3, mezzanine, Education & Research Center

More November screenings that I won’t be able to attend, but I hope you go if you’re in the area:

Ft. Lauderdale (FL) Int’l Film Festival, Nov 7
World Film Festival of Bangkok (Thailand), Oct 24-Nov 2
Winnipeg Animation Festival (MN, Canada), Oct 29-Nov 2
Festival voix d’Etoiles (France), Oct 30-Nov 2
Moscow Big Cartoons Festival (Russia), Nov 1-16
Leeds Int’l Film Festival (UK), Nov 4-16
Holland Animation Festival (The Netherlands), Nov 5-9
Asheville Film Festival (NC), Nov 6-9
Flip Animation Festival (UK), Nov 6-8
Olympia Film Festival (WA), Nov 14
Beyond Borders Film Festival, (MN), Nov 15

Check out the occasionally-updated full screening list here.

Congratulations to Greg Sextro

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Greg Sextro was Sita‘s sound designer, and my closest collaborator on the film. He also did the sound design for Bill Plympton‘s latest feature, Idiots and Angels, which just won BEST SOUND at the 2nd Annual 2morrow International Festival of Contemporary Cinema in Moscow. Yay!