Ban “Sita Sings the Blues” from the Internet!

Seriously, I could use the publicity. What would happen if thousands of people signed this petition? Has a movie ever been banned from the Internet before? I want to see how it’s done. You can leave a message with your signature. They only have 367 so far – do your part, people.

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The Battle of Lanka in 02:30

Thanks, Cousin Phil!

To the Best of Our Knowledge

A segment on Sita Sings the Blues on NPR’s To the Best of Our Knowledge, starting around 13:30.

Shadow Puppet Shirt Designs

By popular demand. Click on a thumbnail to see the image. Comments welcome.

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Thank You Free Culture

How many independent animators get a Bangok high fashion line named after their film? None, unless they let people share:

“First of the treats for fans of the brand this year is the presentation of its Spring/Summer 2009 collection. Titled “Sita Sings the Blues” after the stunning animation film by US cartoonist/artist Nina Paley, the collection was unveiled for the first time to fans and fashionistas in the form of a choreographed presentation against the backdrop of the famed animation….” link

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)!

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)

…and on the Speech frontlines in India:

Salil Tripathi wrote an informative, well-informed article about whether Sita Sings the Blues can avoid being banned in India. It’s in the Far-Eastern Economic Review, and to read the whole thing you have to subscribe ($120 yikes!), but if you’re already a subscriber do check it out.

Obamarama / Ram Leela in New York Oct. 4

Sita collaborator Pooja Kumar (Surphanaka) points our attention to a good ol’-fashioned Ram Leela at Lincoln Center in New York. This is a much more traditional presentation of the story of Rama (it’s “a victory of good over evil”) in contrast to my very personal, unconventional spin in Sita Sings the Blues. Here are some commercials from youtube:

The Ram Leela is Saturday, October 4 at 3:30 pm at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center.

That same day, other Sita collaborator Aseem Chhabra (Shadow Puppet #1) hosts South Asian Writers Speak Out for Obama, a fundraiser featuring Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai, Suketu Mehta, Manil Suri, and Akhil Sharma, with filmmaker Mira Nair as emcee and jazz music provided by the AZA Jazz Collective.

Saturday, October 4, 2008
6:00pm – 9:00 pm
(Program will begin at 6:30pm.)

Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012
www.lepoissonrouge.com


Sita in Livingston, New Jersey, this Saturday Sept. 6

Asian Indians in Livingston in collaboration with the Livingston library will sponsor screening of “Sita sings the Blues” on September 6th at 6:00 p.m. in the Livingston Library, S. Livingston Avenue (near the High School).

Yep I’ll be there, along with the awesome and delectable Reena Shah, a Livingston native. This event was instigated by Anju Bhargava, who has written extensively on Sita:

Sita, more than any other character, is an integral part of the Indian woman’s psyche. At every stage of an Indian woman’s life, her name is invoked. Anju Bhargava found it amazing that one great epic written by a poet thousands of years ago has shaped and continues to shape and reshape the thinking of an entire culture. And, how certain aspects of a character have been emphasized more than others to suit the political and societal norms of the day. They have been understood or misunderstood to manage relationships through control and power. She has often wondered what the impact of Ramayan to the Indian culture would have been if it these characters had not been canonized. What if the popular cultural focus was not primarily on the Sita agni parikshay. What if the characters were understood as the flesh and blood characters that Valmiki was attempting to bring to life in his great poem! This reflection of Sita took her further along in her own quest of understanding Indian womanhood. In many respects she has come back full circle. She was ambivalent towards Sita, then rejected her, and now has come to accept her as an Indian cultural icon. She shares her understanding of Sita in her essay www.sitayanam.com .

This will be the first screening I attend equipped with the long-awaited “limited edition festival screener” DVDs, which of course I can’t legally sell, but I’ll have a box of ’em for all you “movie reviewers.” And of course you can legally donate to the artist, who is currently homeless, broke and in debt.

Press for Success

Another round of articles about Sita Sings the Blues:

“imaginative, giddily witty, visually delicious”
Seattle Weekly (Editor’s Pick)

Animating a Personal Flash Epic: The Making of Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues
a long, detailed, and honest (maybe too honest) interview with Bryant Frazer for Film&Video

Gods, Princes and Demons
New Statesman article by Salil Tripathi about the British Library’s Ramayana exhibit, including a paragraph on Sita

Nina Paley’s Path to “Sita Sings the Blues”
a long article by Ed Liu for ToonZone

“a tiny slice of the world”

Apparently an American distributor rejected Sita Sings the Blues because, culturally, “it only relates to a tiny slice of the world.”

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Sita in Berlin (again!) this April 24


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Berliners and other pastries can catch one (and only one!) screening of Sita Sings the Blues this April 24 9:15pm at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) immediately following the premiere of “play/dance/music/video/project” The Abduction of Sita by Joachim Schloemer.

Continue reading Sita in Berlin (again!) this April 24

Finance Report

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Praise be to Laxmi!

Laxmi is both the eternal form of Sita and the Goddess of Wealth. I never really thought about her wealth aspect until now. Because my mind is so blown by the donations coming in for the 35mm master of Sita Sings the Blues.

Folks, you are kind and generous beyond my dreams. So far over $13,000 have come in. Some is from people I know in real life, but most is from people I’ve never met, mere electronic impulses from other synapses in this great hive-mind we call the Internet. I’m sitting here in awe and disbelief. I’m so grateful, so touched, so dazzled my little pea-brain can’t quite handle it. So it’s time for me to envision this as divine and offer thanks.

I thank all of you, I thank the Internets, I thank the Universe, I thank Laxmi.

Credits deadline extension

The lab making the 35mm print master of Sita Sings the Blues has been delayed receiving the requisite film stock, due to a delivery error. That means they can’t print the final reel – with the credits – until Monday. And that means I don’t have to render the credits until Sunday. Which means anyone who wants their name in the credits still has until 10pm Sunday January 27 to make a donation! All donors will be thanked in the credits, but donors of $1K or more get a credit of their choice (Key Grip, Caterer, etc.) in a larger font.