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)

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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!

יום האנימציה הבין לאומי

I never learned Hebrew so I don’t know what that headline means – I just cut and pasted the name of the jpeg Gilat sent me. I do know Sita Sings the Blues will screen with Hebrew subtitles at Holon Cinimateq/Animateq on November 12 for Animation Day. I won’t be there (I’ll be in San Francisco) but my ASIFA-Israel friends will be. Tell your Hebrew-knowing friends!

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Publicity Bitch sez: Awards!

It doesn’t come off as humble, but my alter-ego Publicity Bitch has some exciting awards news about Sita Sings the Blues.

First, from the the 37th Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in Montreal:

the prestigious Z Télé Grand Prize – prestigious because it is voted upon by those who actually buy tickets to films in the festival – went to Sita Sings the Blues, Nina Paley’s riotous animated musical appropriation of the Indian lit classic, Ramayana, billed as “the Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.” (link)

Thank you, Montreal!

Second, today IFP announced its nominees for the 2008 Gotham Awards:

Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You™

Afterschool
Antonio Campos, director; Josh Mond, Sean Durkin, producers
Meadowlark
Taylor Greeson, producer/director
The New Year Parade
Tom Quinn, director; Steve Beal, Tom Quinn, producers
Sita Sings the Blues
Nina Paley, producer/director
Wellness
Jake Mahaffy, director; Jake Mahaffy, Jeff Clark, producers

Thanks, IFP!

And as always, big thanks to you friends, supporters, and viewers for helping my little film make its way in the world.

Meet Aseem Chhabra!

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In addition to being a professional journalist, desi cultural maven, and all-around entertaining guy, Aseem was the voice of “Shadow Puppet #1″ in Sita Sings the Blues. He’ll be representing the film at some upcoming Southern California screenings*:

Monday, Oct. 13, 8:30 pm
RedCat Cinema
631 W. 2nd St., Los Angeles CA

Thursday, October 16, 7:00pm
with sound designer Greg Sextro!
ArtPower at UC San Diego/The Loft
9500 Gilman Drive #0078, La Jolla, CA 92093

Have a great time, you crazy kids!

 

*which I’m sitting out due to illness

Best Script in Athens!

Sita Sings the Blues won Best Script at the Athens International Film Festival. It’s an honor I credit to Sita’s talented collaborators, especially Manish Acharya, Aseem Chhabra and Bhavana Nagulapally, who improvised all the narration.

Sita also received an Honorable Mention for “Best Animated Feature Film” at the Ottawa Animation Festival.

So the film is in excellent health, even while I am a quivering wreck.

I Be Illin’

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OK, so I’m not in Athens right now. I left Israel early. I got sick, is what happened. A little food poisoning, a little irritable bowel syndrome, a little appetite loss and not eating for days, a little nervous breakdown, and next thing you know I’m back in New York trying to recover in a friend’s apartment, because I lost mine to bed bugs in July – not that that could be contributing to my stress or anything.

IBS

Unfortunately airports and airplanes and trying to sleep in different time zones are kind of killing me, so I’m canceling personal appearances for the next few weeks. It is a serious bummer, because I love meeting audiences and doing Q and A’s; and also because some of my upcoming lecture gigs actually pay, and I need the money. But my body and brain apparently can’t take this much travel, and I’m really sick.

On a bright note, the Rehovot International Women’s Film Festival was amazing – really excellent films, and excellent women. I also met some wonderful animators from ASIFA-Israel.

Where in the World is Sita Sings the Blues?

Please check the ever-growing show list. Sorry it’s not better organized; you have to scroll down in chronological order from past to future. It’s just me and my Momz trying to keep track here.

I’m leaving on Sunday for these two:

Sita and I will be bopping around other parts of Israel too, according to the US State Department (!), who is sponsoring my trip (how that was arranged I do not know). I’ll be in Athens Sept. 25-29. Whee!

Am I a Criminal?

Naturally I keep up on the latest grim developments in copyright law. The new Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act, which unsurprisingly “is strongly backed by the music and movie industries,” would “(allow) for the Department of Justice to bring civil suits against IP infringers.

Continue reading Am I a Criminal?

“Review Copies”

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Look what arrived today! Thanks to Gillian and Sylvie at Elektrofilm for the professional authoring in both PAL and NTSC formats that hopefully won’t crash like my home-authored version, and especially to my genius Momz for managing what turned into a more complicated logistical challenge than any of us imagined.

These aren’t for sale, of course – that would be illegal. They’re just festival screeners and review copies for, like, reviewing and screening in a festive manner.

Update: That said, it has some, ah, glitches. Glitches that apparently some people won’t notice, or think I did on purpose, but watching them feels like knives in my heart. Glitches which I must correct on the “next” version. Glitches which were in my HD master. Oh boy.

Home is where the Cat is

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Bruno has joined a pride at Ken’s house. Background: Bruno. Foreground: Peanut. Not shown: Sweetpea. (I am not responsible for the latter two names)

I’m finally back in New York, staying in my friend Ken’s apartment, where my beloved and loyal cat Bruno is. It’s been a long, long trip around the world, on 12 separate flights, crammed into overcrowded economy cabins with “lap babies” and screamers, and all the Ambien in the world couldn’t make air travel more bearable. Happier stories and photos of the festivals themselves to come. For now, I’m just glad to be “home.”

My internet access on the road was spotty, so if you’ve been trying to reach me the last month, please try again now. I’ll be here until September 14, when I fly to Israel. More on that soon.

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Okay, here’s a picture of Sweetpea after all. 

Greetings from the Other Side of the World!

International air travel sucks butt (how many “lap babies” can they pack on one 16-hour long-haul?) but the festivals themselves sure are nice once you get there. Durban was warm and had lively audiences. I saw some good films and was put up in a very nice hotel, which I seldom left due to warnings about rampant street crime. DIFF also gave me an unusually beautiful festival bag, made of intricately printed African fabric.

3 flights and about 20 hours later I arrived in beautiful Melbourne without my checked suitcase, which vanished somewhere between Johannesburg and Perth. The Melbourne International Film Festival then sponsored a whirlwind shopping spree at Target 45 minutes before closing, where I scored some underwear, pants and a bra, and learned Australian clothing sizes don’t correspond to American. The lovely and talented actress Arta Dobroshi got word of my plight and lent me some of her movie star duds, including a hot strapless number I don’t want to return. The city of Melbourne is handsome indeed, reminiscent of San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, but you do need to wear clothes there – it’s cold, and it’s the law. The MIFF audiences were TEH AWESOMEST!!1! – “Sita” played simultaneously in two full houses, and the post-screening discussion was a lot of fun.

Then I flew to Brisbane, where I am now. I like Australia. Gone are the adventurous exotica-seeking days of my youth – give me that familiar Western decadence. Australia is like the US, but less populated and prettier and seemingly more functional, unless you’re an Aboriginal, in which case neither country is particularly lovable. But I am a product of the Decadent West, and after 2 days on godawful airliners I really appreciate returning to a familiar culture. Except it’s on the other side of the World. Uncanny, that. Tonight a BIFF volunteer named all 5 boroughs of New York, proving we are truly one people.

Tomorrow “Sita” screens to a bunch of school kids. I am looking forward to it. Now that the film has proven itself as a cartoon for adults, kids’ screenings just broaden the audience, instead of pigeonholing it as I’d first feared.

Next Week: Jecheon, Korea!

Baby’s Got a Brand New Passport

My new, hopefully post-bed bug life coincides with my new passport, which I just got today. A clean slate! I feel so fresh, like a newborn 40-year-old.

I need the extra visa pages for my upcoming festival tour, which includes:

Durban International Film Festival
July 23 – August 3
Durban, South Africa

Melbourne International Film Festival
July 25 – August 10
Melbourne, Australia

Brisbane International Film Festival
July 31 – August 10
Brisbane, Australia

Jecheon International Music and Film Festival
August 9 – 14
Jecheon, Korea

Who needs an apartment when you’ve got airplanes and hotels? And who needs money when there are party snacks and meal vouchers? See you on the other side of the World!

Meanwhile, if you’re in New York, Sita will screen at the

Long Island Film and Wine Festival
July 31 – August 3
Martha Clara Vineyards, Long Island, New York

Obviously I won’t be there, but a bunch of NY Sita collaborators will! Come see the movie and say hi to them.

I’m back!

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Now I get to enjoy two glorious weeks in my favorite city in the World. Sita did very well in Europe, especially France – in addition to the Annecy prize, she won “Best American Feature” at Avignon. All of which takes some of the sting out of returning to a lost potential romance, a friend’s descent into alcoholism, and a bedbug infestation in my building (the exterminators come Friday). Still, I am overjoyed to be reunited with my beloved cat Bruno, and walk and bicycle in the city I love, bedbugs and all.

Here are some pictures of Novi Sad, Serbia, I took while attending the Cinema City film festival.