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Sita Sings The Blues

62 customer reviews

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(Jan 08, 2010)
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(Jul 28, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description



I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to another. It hardly ever happens this way. I get a DVD in the mail. I'm told it's an animated film directed by a girl from Urbana. That's my home town. It is titled Sita Sings the Blues. I know nothing about it, and the plot description on IMDb is not exactly a barn-burner: An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Uh, huh. I carefully file it with other movies I will watch when they introduce the 8-day week. I get an e-mail from Betsy, my old pal who worked with me on The News-Gazette. Did you see the film by the mayor's daughter? This intrigues me. The daughter is named Nina Paley. I do a Google run and discover that Hiram Paley was mayor from 1973-1977. I am relieved. This means the girl probably didn't make the film as a high school class project. In fact, by my rapid mathematical calculations, she may have been conceived in City Hall. I used to cover City Hall. Worse things have happened there. By this point, I'm hooked. I can't stop now. I put on the DVD and start watching. I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to the other. It is astonishingly original. It brings together four entirely separate elements and combines them into a great whimsical chord. You might think my attention would flag while watching An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Quite the opposite. It quickens. I obtain Nina Paley's e-mail address and invite the film to my film festival in April 2009 at the University of Illinois, which by perfect synchronicity is in our home town. To get any film made is a miracle. To conceive of a film like this is a greater miracle. How did Paley's mind work? She begins with the story of Ramayana, which is known to every school child in India but not to me. It tells the story of a brave, noble woman who was made to suffer because of the perfidy of a spineless husband and his mother. This is a story known to every school child in America. They learn it at their mother's knee. Paley depicts the story with exuberant drawings in bright colors. It is about a prince named Rama who treated Sita shamefully, although she loved him and was faithful to him. Of course there is a lot more to it than that, involving a monkey army, a lustful king who occasionally grows 10 heads, synchronized birds, a chorus line of gurus, and a tap-dancing moon. It coils around and around, as Indian epic tales are known to do. Even the Indians can't always figure them out. In addition to her characters talking, Paley adds another level of dialogue: Three voice-over modern Indians, ad-libbing as they try to get the story straight. Was Sita wearing jewelry or not? How long was she a prisoner in exile? How did the rescue monkey come into the picture? These voices are as funny as an SNL skit, and the Indian accent gives them charm: What a challenge, these stories! Sita, the heroine, reminds me a little of the immortal Betty Boop. But her singing voice is sexier. Paley synchs her life story and singing and dancing with recordings of the American jazz singer Annette Hanshaw (1901-1985), a big star in the 1920s and 1930s who was known as The Personality Girl. Sita lived around 1000 BCE, a date which inspires lively debate among the three Indians discussing her. But when her husband outrageously accuses her of adultery and kicks her on top of a flaming pyre, we know exactly how she feels when Annette Hanshaw sings her big hit, Mean to Me. Read more here at --Rogert Ebert

WHAT do a 3,000-year-old Sanskrit epic, a 20s-era jazz singer and Indonesian shadow puppets have in common? They re all part of the eclectic cultural tapestry that is Sita Sings the Blues, an 82-minute animated feature that combines autobiography with a retelling of the classic Indian myth the Ramayana, and that required its creator, the syndicated comic-strip artist Nina Paley, to spend three years transforming herself into a one-woman moving-picture studio. At some point everything went through my computer, said Ms. Paley, who is self-taught and whose longest animated film before this of a dog chasing a ball clocked in at just over four minutes. Her decision to do it herself may have satisfied her creative urges, but it also put her more than $20,000 in debt. That s why not everyone does it, she said. It s hard to imagine how Ms. Paley, 40, could have farmed out the writing, directing, editing, producing and animating of Sita Sings the Blues. As engaging as the film is, explaining it is tricky: along with traditional 2-D animation there are cutouts, collages, photographs and scenes with hand-painted watercolors as the backdrop. At certain points Ms. Paley mixes laughs with exposition by having three flat silhouette characters dispute the details of the Ramayana s tragic saga of the Hindu goddess Sita, who is exiled by her husband, Rama, who fears she has been unfaithful after she is abducted by a demon king. At other points Ms. Paley weaves in the story of her own collapsing marriage, and the time switches from ancient India to present-day San Francisco and Manhattan, the images hand-drawn and jittery. In between everything else are flash-animation musical numbers featuring Sita in voluptuous Betty Boop-like form almond-shaped head, saucer eyes and swaying hips accompanied by the warbling voice of a real-life flapper-era singer named Annette Hanshaw. For fans of Sita Sings the Blues Ms. Paley s imaginative leaps and blend of styles are part and parcel of the film s visual and aural originality. You can actually feel how much time went into it, said Alison Dickey, a film producer and one of the jurors who nominated Ms. Paley for Film Independent s Someone to Watch honor, to be announced at the Spirit Awards next Saturday. We see so many films, and when you come across one like this, you just feel like you ve stumbled upon a gem. In 2002 Ms. Paley followed her husband, an animator, from their home in San Francisco to a town in western India. It was there that she first learned of the tale of the Ramayana. When she reached the part when Sita kills herself to prove her fidelity, she said, she thought, That s just messed up and wrong. An idea for a postfeminist comic strip began brewing. In it her new ending would still have Rama rejecting Sita, but instead of committing suicide she would become empowered. She says, To hell with you. I m going to go join a farming collective. Before Ms. Paley could commit her I-will-survive strip to paper, though, life intervened. While she was on a business trip to New York, her husband sent her an e-mail message telling her not to return. In a state of grief, agony and shock, she remained in Manhattan, camping out on friends sofas. One of her hosts, a collector of vintage records, played Annette Hanshaw s shiny rendition of Fred E. Ahlert and Roy Turk s bluesy lament Mean to Me. A friend of mine joked, That s your theme song, Ms. Paley said. And while Mean to Me and Rama s rejection of Sita made sense together, she didn t have the money or the emotional energy to envision more than a short film. - - Margy Rochlin To read more visit --New York Times

Beautifully enchanting, playfully funny cartoon for adults --Premiere Magazine

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Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Annette Hanshaw, Aseem Chhabra, Bhavana Nagulapally, Manish Acharya, Reena Shah
  • Directors: Nina Paley
  • Format: Anamorphic, NTSC, Widescreen, Color
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: FilmKaravan
  • DVD Release Date: July 28, 2009
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002G50002
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,648 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Sita Sings The Blues" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jaideep Punjabi on July 15, 2009
Format: DVD
I had the pleasure of checking out the film at a Festival in New York. The animation has a unique home made, heartfelt and endearing quality. It is visually delightful. The juxtaposition of the director's contemporary, emotional journey alongside a character from hindu mythology is a remarkably difficult to execute. She pulls it of with sensitivity and transports the audience to a period in her life. The use of witty shadow puppets as narrators is fantastic and I strongly recommend the film. It is an enjoyable, mature, non-disney like use of animation which is rare. The vision is undeniable and I am looking forward to see what the filmmaker does next.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Rynona Wyder on October 25, 2009
Format: DVD
Imagine a Betty Boop-embodied Hindu goddess, batting obscenely gigantic eyes in an A.D.D.-friendly, cleverly-animated Indian folktale/comedic tragedy. Sita's Mystery Science Theater-style commentary is mashed with a San Francisco love-story; overlain with the sexy, smoky 1920s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw; and is all elegantly woven into a colorful, creative, masterpiece landmark in illustrative storytelling.

Talented animator Nina Paley further exhibits badassness by redefining copyright definitions and movie distribution, and by encouraging free public screenings.

Support new media distribution, and enjoy this amazing film.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Ramesh Ramaswamy on July 20, 2009
Format: DVD
A film of amazing emotional depth , Sita Sings the Blues is not merely animated personal mythology. The film combines the creative talents of cartoonist Nina Paley with a selection of (what are now) standards from the 1920's Blues singer Annette Hanshaw (think Bessie smith without the lugubriousness) and some honest pictorial rendering of the Indian myth "The Ramayana".

Sita Sings the Blues is Pre-Cinema. If much of today's Hollywood film scripting owes itself to comic books, this film fits easily within the creative embryo of the genre and produces a minimalist ,illustrated video comic that blends disparate audio and visual styles with a narrative personal mythology , so original that it is capable of influencing a whole genration of artists and filmmakers.

Sita's story (the Ramayana is a very well known tale and Ill skip repeating the epic here) has always been the lost voice in the telling of the epic. "The blues" corrects this historical slight in a very satisfying way.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Edward A. Kim on January 20, 2010
Format: DVD
I'll add my own lauds to the mass and say that I loved this movie. It's somewhat bizarre and you may feel inclined to turn it off if you just watch the first few seconds and weren't sure what you were getting into, but after the titles, the story immediately grabs you, starting off with the midnight cat demanding food. So funny.

Now what I haven't seen mentioned by anyone is that this movie is provided by the Creative Commons license and is a free downloadable movie. You may freely download this movie. The official site ([...]/) has a page of downloads and streaming sites. There is also a donation page where you may donate directly to the creator.

I encourage everyone to spread this around so that the film can get the exposure it deserves. Movies like this may find a nice audience eventually. But with it being freely distributable, hopefully it can find a bigger audience faster.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Triple One on November 29, 2011
Format: DVD
First of all, Sita Sings the Blues is a spectacular film. It is a paramount of animation and creative storytelling, and definitely makes a wonderful gift. Furthermore, in my opinion, Sita Sings the Blues is a fine movie for children to see. "Coddling is ill-advised."
But did you know that Nina Paley, the creator of the film, is a big promoter of the "Question Copyright" movement, and she would prefer you freely distribute the film? It's all detailed at sitasingstheblues dot com, and on that site there is an online store where, if you would like to purchase a physical copy of the DVD, 50% of the price goes directly to the artist. However, if you read Nina's statement at the URL above, you will see that she has absolutely no qualms about you downloading, burning, sharing, and even re-mixing the movie as you wish. She even recommends downloading it from The Pirate Bay!
I came to to try and buy a bunch of Sita DVDs to give out for Christmas (because nothing would make a better Christmas gift than an animated re-telling of the Ramayana...), but since Amazon is currently out-of-stock, I am going to download and burn a stack of them to give out, and then I'm going to donate money to Nina Paley directly through one of her affiliate sites. I encourage you to do the same! Please help share this fantastic film with the world!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mitchell S. Gould on December 23, 2009
Format: DVD
The big animation houses blow through hundreds of millions of dollars on each their films, but never have and likely never will deliver the electric joy inspired by Nina Paley's masterpiece. The universe offers us only one force powerful enough to bind together the wildly disparate elements in this color-drenched musical--the epic traditions of Hindu scripture; the sweet, spicy, pungent flavor of Hinduism's kitsch art; a crinkly New Yorker-style tale of modern love on the rocks; a driving, cosmical, East-meets-West soundtrack; the fond but skeptical sound of average modern-day Indians dissecting their cultural heritage; and of course, the campy, touching torch songs of Annette Hanshaw. That irresistible force is Paley's priceless sense of artistry and humor--a huge, soft tiger's paw with its claws retracted, caressing rather than slashing its prey. This film is only a few years old, but I feel sure it is one of the greatest movies ever made. When I first saw it on the Internet, I wanted to pinch myself to see whether I only dreamed a film could be so delightful. When I saw it again in a theater, I realized that Sita may soon earn the evergreen stature of "The Wizard of Oz." I can think of no higher praise.
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bad subtitles
This version has out-of-sync subtitles; they seem to have been imported straight to the DVD authoring program from the subtitle-text-files and not synchronized by anyone in particular. If you require subtitles, check out the alternative (free downloadable) DVD version made by Drakar2007, with... Read More
Jul 24, 2011 by Mike Schmitt |  See all 2 posts
The details listed (as of this writing) are slightly incorrect.
As of 7/2/10, our public library has this DVD. I have reserved it, and will find out if it's Region 1. I doubt they would buy a non-compatible region here in Michigan
Jul 2, 2010 by Robert A. Keeler |  See all 4 posts
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