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!

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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.

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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)!

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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!

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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.

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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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