Sita Sings the Blues (2008) Poster

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A Blue Man Can Make a Woman Blue...
PseudoFritz14 August 2009
My comment on the film: Bloody marvelous. "Sita Sings the Blues" shows how one person with a laptop computer and something to say can make a far more satisfying work than 90% of the garbage that gets cranked out by people with a thousand times the money but one-thousandth the inspiration. Whatever its entertainment value (which I found considerable), "Sita..." is a work of ART; it's an individual statement. But it's not simply the "message", either; in terms of execution, Nina Paley made as effective use of this tool (Flash animation) as I would ever expect to see.

My comment on previous comments: Some have suggested that the piece would be "better" if Paley had left out the autobiographical bits, but that's simply nonsense. Her own story is integral to understanding how and why she chose to tell Sita's story the way she did. It isn't simply "background" to the telling of a story from the Ramayana; the piece is a meshing of Sita/Nina. By making the legendary story relevant to one woman's life, we see that it can be relevant to the lives of many. If the "point" of the work were simply to present the Ramayana on film the way "The Ten Commandments" is a filmed presentation of the Book of Exodus, it would be kind of silly to have Sita break into Blues songs in the first place, wouldn't it? Ms. Paley uses Sita's story as raw material, and uses Annette Hanshaw's recordings as raw material, to create something new and personal and totally contemporary.

I can only hope that John Lassiter sees "Sita". Not that I think Pixar has any need to learn anything from Nina Paley, but maybe he can channel some Disney bucks to her so that it won't take her five more years to produce a follow-up. (Just so long as she's allowed total creative control.)
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A monumental achievement for Nina Paley, and a bloody good time for the rest of us
raptorclaw24 July 2009
There are some movies that cannot be viewed separately from the story of their making - 'Citizen Kane', 'Apocalypse Now', virtually anything directed by Werner Herzog - and I feel that 'Sita Sings the Blues' is one of them. To put it mildly, Nina Paley has completed a Herculean task by making this film: 82 minutes of animation, fluid and beautiful, in four different styles, all on her own, on her own personal computer. For that fact alone, 'Sita' is a marvel.

The picture leaks creativity at the edges. This is readily apparent even in the basic idea of it - the Ramayana of Valmiki, with songs by '20s jazz singer Annette Hanshaw as the singing voice of Sita, intercut with the India-related breakdown of the creator's own marriage, which paralleled Sita's, narrated by three 'Desi' English-speaking Indians that can't agree on the details or the motivations of the characters and analyze the story constantly and hilariously as they tell it. And all of it is animated.

The animation is, like the rest of the movie, bursting with life. There are four styles, each used for a different story thread - a cardboard-cutout style for the narrated bits and hallucinatory interludes; a scratchy, Richard Condie-like style for the autobiographical bits; a Mughal miniature-like style for the traditional Ramayana bits; and a tweening-heavy vector graphics style for the song-and-dance Ramayana-meets-the-Jazz-Era bits. The first two thirds of the film establish which style is used for which story very firmly, making transitions and digressions easier for the audience to handle - a glimpse of a scribbled New York prepares us for autobiography, colorful rooftops for a Ramayana segment. Thus the picture's leaping about becomes almost natural after a while, and is never jarring. Also, laying down these ground rules pays off toward the end of the movie, when Paley starts to break them: this grabs the viewers' attention and sets the audience on alert when voices that we've been conditioned to expect while looking at cutouts intrude upon Flash animation. In short, Paley makes sure transitions aren't jarring so she can jar us with them later, to good effect.

For example: at one point in the movie, the three Indian narrators tell us of a trick by an evil king to lure Rama away from his wife Sita so that the king can kidnap her while he is gone. We watch the plan hatched in cardboard-cutout style. We see it executed in Mughal miniature style. And we see the actual kidnapping occur during a Hanshaw song in the vector graphics style. Rama learns of his wife's disappearance in . . . Mughal miniature style. You, watching this, can never truly be impatient because you want to see what the screen will do next. That is high praise for a filmmaker.

Most importantly, of course, the film is hysterically funny. The most humor (at least for me, as a Pakistani who gets the in-jokes) flows from the narrators, who try to remember the old story as they go along, discuss it, question its logic, think better of questioning its logic ('Don't challenge these stories!') and generally provide non-stop entertainment before the plot - which, really, is hardly a narrative masterwork - can move along. There are also several satirical barbs directed at the Ramayana as the behavior of Rama and Sita grows ever more unrealistic to twenty-first century listeners, what with sexism and vague motivations, but only the prickliest devotee can claim offense. The movie is, above all, good-natured - although Paley really is very VERY angry at that husband of hers.

Just a note for anyone that understands Urdu or Hindi: the bizarre three-minute intermission halfway through the movie is the funniest part of the film due to one remark by what can only be a middle-aged auntie in the movie theater about the nature of the 'picture'. Keep your ears picked as the countdown ends. Trust me. It's easy to miss.

Why only an 8, then? Reading what I've written, I sound absolutely ecstatic. But then, 9 stars for me is only for classic material, and I don't think 'Sita' is quite that. This is no masterpiece. It's just a thoroughly enjoyable movie that bursts with innovation and - pure and simple - irresistible style. Not enough filmmakers these days make movies that need to be 'pulled off'. Making 'Sita' cannot have been a safe or easy choice. Hats off to Nina Paley.

By the way, due to copyright restrictions on the Hanshaw songs, Paley has been unable to release the film in the traditional way (for profit), and is giving it away for free on her website. Go watch it, and be sure to thank her afterwards.

Highly recommended.
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the best animated musical of the decade... sorta
Quinoa198430 December 2009
Nina Paley is the kind of filmmaker that makes the auteur theory look dated. This isn't a case of a director putting her vision on the screen via a crew of technicians and a cast of actors. This IS her vision, down to all of the designs and animation, which she did over the course of five years (a dedication of time that recalls a director like David Lynch on Eraserhead or Inland Empire). It was all done on computer- reportedly only one intern helped animate some of a battle sequence- and it's being presented for free on the website for Sita Sings the Blues. And yet, if you have a chance (as I had) to see it on the big screen, it's one of the events of the year if you love animation and daring in film-making.

It's a personal story of Paley's break-up with her boyfriend (who did it, savagely, over email), and put into a context of the story of the Ramayana, an ancient Indian story about a woman, Sita, and her bond with the blue-skinned Rama over a lifetime. At the same time Paley uses animation and music and documentary and the free-wheeling expression of cinema to make it unconventional. We see Indian drawing figures ala Monty Python animation discussing story points as they go along, which name is who's and what detail really happened, etc. And then there are musical segments put to Annette Hanshaw, a 1920's jazz singer, to illustrate Sita's journey through the turbulent ups and downs of romance.

Sita Sings the Blues is joyous entertainment. One can tell that Paley was exorcising some past strife, namely from her own break-up that we see in the film in a scraggly Dr. Katz style of animation, but what's most striking is how it's tragedy is never ever a downer. On the contrary this is a comedy in a fresh sense, where the absurdity keeps coming in little unexpected ways, like with the figures of the monkeys in battle, or how the discussing members talk over the details of the Sita cast members. And the musical numbers are just about the best one has seen all decade (which goes without saying the lack of competition, but still), as we see Sita sing her feelings and thoughts, sometimes in happiness and sometimes totally down in the dumps (re: her pregnancy and abandonment after being rescued).

There's a complex web of emotions that Paley navigates through, and she does it so confidently that it's hard not to marvel at her achievements here. It's an independent film in the best sense of the word, the truest sense, uncompromised by studio interference or for any kind of 'demographic'. It's a dark comic feminist musical fable that includes an intermission, a cast of hundreds (animated, not voiced), and it strikes up your heartstrings in the best possible ways. It's a post-modern breakthrough, and I can't wait to revisit it, oh, right about now I would say.
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VirginiaK_NYC3 May 2008
The glamour of India, the glamour of the 1920s, the depth-sounding drumbeat of the ancient mythic world, and the woman who loves the wrong kind of man – Nina Paley gets them all together, along with a relevant chunk of autobiography about a disappointing husband of her own, in her dazzling first full-length animated feature.

In the ancient Indian story, the Ramayana, Sita is the wife of the man-god Rama, and the embodiment of the Virtuous Wife. She suffers one awful punishment and test after another from her mistrustful and apparently other-directed (what will people think? etc) husband. In Paley's movie, Sita steps forward from time to time to sing a torch-y Jazz Era song ("Mean to Me," and the like) in the voice of Annette Hanshaw, a stylistically elegant and not-well-enough-known voice of the '20s.

Sita's story (kidnapping by 9-headed king, rescue by Rama, rejection by Rama, monkey-god help) alternates with modern-day episodes about Nina's own real-life inexplicably disintegrating marriage, and also with the occasional very funny and illuminating conversation about the Ramayana and its meanings among several of the filmmaker's witty and well-educated Indian friends ("The king had four wives . . . no, three wives . . . three wives and four sons, that's right!!. . . . " "You know if Sita had just gone with the monkey a lot of lives would have been spared . . . ").

You can enjoy it just for the luxurious pleasure of Paley's use of Indian artistic styles in motion, from powerful ancient Hindu motifs, to detailed Moghul-ish backgrounds, to deliriously gaudy street-market devotional calendar art.

For myself, I also came away with the best grasp I've had yet on the Rama-Sita story, more than worth knowing both on the archetypal front (Some Things Never Change) and as background to the hundreds of Indian movie stories that take it up from one angle or another.

July 28, 2009 NOTE - now on DVD!!
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animation on a laptop
rschmeec14 July 2008
The vocalist in Sita Sings the Blues is Annette Hanshaw, a jazz vocalist 75 years ago, now probably unremembered by all but researchers. She is remembered now as one of the integral elements in Nina Paley's beautifully animated first film, produced on her laptop computer over a period of five years. For me, this is a landmark film in dissolving my resistance to animation.

The other elements so well integrated are the personal history of Nina Paley's broken marriage, the analogous situation of Sita's rejection by Rama in the Indian epic, Ramayana, and animated (in both senses) conversation about that epic.

I first enjoyed this in a press screening for the 2008 Seattle International Film Festival. Then I took visiting relatives, including a 9 year old granddaughter, to see it. All were delighted. This is that rare film that appeals both to children and adults.

The animated Sita reminded me of Betty Boop, but with a greater emphasis on the boobs. Time does march on.
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Welcome to Paley Ramayanam!
shashikrishna12 September 2009
'Sita sings the Blues' is an independent animated movie that re-tells the Ramayana using mainly 2D animation and some immensely refreshing screenplay. The premise unfolds in three parallel tracks – one, with an American couple living in New York with the husband getting a project in Trivandrum in India; two, three Indians (yes yes, actual Indians!) voicing three shadow like caricatures bickering and debating about the events that Ramayana is popular for and a third, sort of, platonic/musical track is the animation piece where Sita breaks into one of Hanshaw's classics every time a relevant situation presents itself. Like 'Daddy wont you please come home' when she is abducted by Ravana or 'Who's that knockin' when Rama arrives at Ravana's door with his 'vaanar-sena' to rescue her. The moments and the way these songs lend themselves to the scenes are absolutely brilliant.

What also becomes obvious is how unassuming and non-philosophical the whole thing is. Even the dialog between the caricatures in Ramayana is so simple and regular, that one can't help but giggle when the evil Kaikeyi says to Rama on his banishment – 'Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out!' Is that not what she really would have felt like saying anyway? This is seriously funny stuff.

What also gets your attention quickly is the absolutely gorgeous artwork. Be it the drawings that are set to a very 'Rajasthan painting' like motif or the 2D animated waist wiggle that Sita gets into whenever she thinks of her beloved Rama and voices out classics from Hanshaw's collection. There is also one brilliant piece just after intermission (and may I add, that was the best intermission I have ever seen in an animated piece!) by Todd Michaelsen called 'Sita's Fire' are plain awesome. The way these various types of art pieces blend into one another with such finesse without taking away from the main plot is an effort that can only be described as – genius.

But then 'Sita sings the Blues' is more than just eye catchy drawings, a narrative that holds you in place and a much contemporary way to retell the epic with the most unlikely Jazz legend for the songs! It is about demystifying the way Ramayana has been told for so many centuries in our country. We have Rama as a brave warrior who, despite being a just King and a righteous man, falls short of being the perfect husband and father. In 'Sita sings…' not only is he portrayed as extremely human and intensely flawed, but even the 'God' factor is finally skinned out which, I thought, was such a refreshing thing to do. For so many decades there have been murders, riots, rapes and looting in India using Rama's name as the only rationale. It was definitely about time someone gave that a bottom line and presented a much more mature, albeit said in a kindergarten level intellectual sequence, and realistic way to see and use the teachings from this epic. Something that actually helps the American woman in the parallel story track to do once she gets her hands on the Ramayana. What also makes you reflect on your own knowledge of the story is how Ravana, the villain of the piece, is hinted at being the actual good guy in the story! A thought that had never occurred to me. Sure, he abducted Sita against her will but hey, was that not all he had done to wrong Rama? He didn't touch her person. He didn't force himself on her in Lanka. Heck, he didn't even make Herculean attempts to find Rama and finish him off. A thought that throws more light on Ravana's much ignored and definitely much clichéd personality in our modern history.

I strongly urge everyone to see this beautiful masterpiece of a movie not just to appreciate the artistic value it so boldly embodies but to also understand the subtleties with which it tells us how to get our priorities straight without being preachy.

The only 'drawback', if I really had to pick, would be the slightly feminist seeming climax. Maybe it is just me but again, maybe it was a tongue in cheek ploy at looking at how Hindu mythologies have always worked. I am unsure. But somehow I felt it could have been choreographed in a less assertive manner.

Nevertheless, this now is officially in my 'all time favorites' list!
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A Nutshell Review: Sita Sings The Blues
DICK STEEL14 April 2009
Featured in last year's edition of Animation Nation, I finally got a chance to watch this masterpiece by filmmaker Nina Paley when she released it on the Internet under the Creative Commons License. And it is without a doubt that this piece of animation is well worth every minute of your time, especially when the visuals just arrests your attention from the get go, and has some wonderful music and songs by 1920s jazz singer Annette Hanshaw, who provides the titular Sita with her singing voice.

Based on the epic Indian tale of Ramayana, focusing on the love triangle between Rama (voiced by Debargo Sanyal), his virtuous wife Sita (Nina Paley herself), and the adversary in the form of Ravana (Sanjiv Jhaveri) who lusts after Sita and kidnaps her, I have gotten a glimpse of this storyline when it got featured in films such as Swades and the more recent Delhi-6. Essentially the extracts in those film featured how Ravana kidnaps Sita for her beauty, and wanted to make her his wife, only for her to hold out enough for Rama to find them, and to kill Ravana in an ensuing war.

The story here expands that tale a lot more, starting with how Rama got banished from his kingdom by his father the King, and together with Sita, roams a forest until her kidnap, their reunion, and how Rama decided to banish her given his incessant suspicion that she may not have been pure, and got violated. It's a sad love story in a way, and this film provided just enough to pique your interest in wanting to read up more.

It's quite amazing how Paley herself directed this piece of magic, and adopted various animation styles to tell a story, and a musical, and has a separate tale set in the modern day to parallel that of the epic tale. I am speechless by how wonderful the opening credits got designed, fused perfectly with the song playing in the background. Her choice of the Annette Hanshaw tunes were a wonderful touch that fit the story to a T, and this can only be attributed to some astonishing creativity and innovation that Paley had demonstrated, and I can't help but to want more.

The shadow puppet narrators (Aseem Chhabra, Bhavana Nagulapally and Manish Acharya) stole the show each time they're on, as they sound just like your good pals who can't wait to give you the lowdown on what they know about this tragic love triangle. They're hilarious and never at any point felt deliberately so, with that very natural feel about the way they want to tell a story.

I would have loved to experience this in a big screen theatre setting, but I guess that would not come anytime soon. So the next best alternative was to download the highest resolution version available to watch this astounding piece as well as to admire the striking attention to details that Paley so lovingly and respectfully put into the characters. You would do yourself a favour and watch how Sita Sings the Blues, as it's a definite must-watch in my books!
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Good eclectic fun
jimcheva22 January 2009
While I still prefer "Les Triplettes de Belleville" for absolutely off-the-wall animated fun, this film rates high in the same nuttiness-meets-cultural-erudition category. The use of (mainly) Gus Kahn's early standards set against the Ramayana - and, then, just enough to create some counterpoint, the disintegration of a relationship - stretches the viewer's mind out of set categories, and makes for a lot of wit en route. The fact that the Indians discussing the epic make a fair number of factual mistakes (at once corrected) is amusing in itself - kind of like listening to nominal Christians confuse incidents from the New Testament. There's a gentle but clear thread of feminist indignation implied in the satire along the way. And many of the images are simply beautiful. - I do have to wonder, though, how this would (will?) be accepted in India, where, as the credits note, one satirical work on the Ramayana is already banned.
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Terrific Film!!!
films4231 October 2008
I saw 32 films in just under 2 weeks at this year's Chicago International Film Festival & SITA SINGS THE BLUES was one of the very best on the entire schedule (& believe me, there were lots of contenders). Paley uses great technique (including four diverse styles of animation) to tell a poignant story that every woman who has ever been in love will certainly understand.

This is a great artistic accomplishment: creatively distilling intense personal pain into great art! BRAVO, Nina!!!

For more on this year's CIFF, see my blog:
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15 stars out of 10!
kitzkats2 March 2009
This movie combines all the wonderful elements of mythology with the winsome voice of Annette Henshaw and her own life experience as her marriage dissolves.

This movie combines the absolute best of animation, music and myth. It is wonderful for kids, adults, those familiar with the Ramayana and those who know nothing about it...

Worth every minute of it's one hour and twenty minutes... don't MISS the opportunity to watch it!

As soon as the DVD comes out I am going to buy it to use in my Mythology class. I believe it is the perfect video to introduce the Ramayana to my students.
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A True Indie Classic
princebansal198230 May 2011
It is a pity really. This is one of the most Indian movies I have seen and it is not even known anywhere in India. Not that Indians will appreciate it. If they try to release it in India, our censor board will refuse to give a certificate as it will hurt religious sentiments. And even if it is passed by the censors, there would be riots as the movie would be deemed offensive.

Sita Sings the Blues is one of the most clever movies I have seen. On a very limited budget, Nina Paley has made an engaging story with just flash and 2D graphics. Sita Sings the Blues juxtaposes the epic story of hindu goddess Sita with that of the director herself. It is quite feminist in outlook. While I have read feminist outlook of Sita before in for a short story, this was quite an amazing experience. Their is humor and quick wit and camaraderie. Instead of feeling like a scripted movie, it feels like a informal chat between friends.

And as I mentioned before, this movie felt more Indian to me than any other movie I have seen. That is why I was so surprised to find out that Nina Paley is American. I am in awe of her.
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thanks Dave, for midhusbanding a masterpiece
briansouter30 April 2010
I wonder what Dave is thinking now....,If his goal was to seek immortality,...he chose the right method, and the right spouse to dump. For Nina Paley has made a masterpiece of animation that has it all: clear, beautiful, vibrant, witty,ironic tragic that equates Dave with Rama and herself with Sita. Its bound to be played and remembered for years after Dave is pushing up the daisies. Two parallel stories: Ninas and Sitas interwoven provide us with fabulous entertainment and a cautionary tale , Nina with her revenge, and Dave with a wish he'd been nicer.. WE know the story now..of Sitas abduction, her devotion and Ramas obsession with purity. But its told by a modern woman, so has that feminist edge. Sita is too sweet to rebuke Rama his injustice, so Nina steps in, and when Sitas children sing the praises of Ram, Nina has them tell it like it is.... Such a variety of animation, as if one kind alone couldn't tell her story. Unlike much American animation which has lots of money behind it but little inspiration, this one is refreshingly mature,worthy of its subject, and yet can appeal to children: nothing false, cloying, ..just real feeling...Interestingly, Paley uses simple line drawings making her own story the more cartoonish, as if it was too painful to treat dramatically, and seems to sublimate it into Sitas story.When she learns dave has dumped her, her cry is cartoonish,...cockroaches replace the cat as her companions, as her life crumbles,,,.her life has gone dark, and so its fitting that at Ninas lowest point a dark figure dances amidst the flames.

Throughout the beautiful voice of Annette Hanshaw, speaks for Sita, Nina and others dumped and unwanted: whose spouses have been mean to them.
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The best animated film I've ever seen
billyweeds-118 October 2009
To call this movie "good fun," as someone did, is the ultimate in under-praise. This is one of the supreme achievements in movie history, a bona fide work of genius. Nina Paley has melded, seamlessly, at least four types of animation into one amazingly entertaining combination of history lesson/comedy sketch/woman's picture/musical dramedy. It's better than "Toy Story," "Ratatouille," and "WALL-E" put together. And she did it all on a computer? This movie has the capacity to make you laugh out loud, contemplate mortality, and shed a tear. It's one of the best movies--let alone animated movies--of the past ten years, one of the handful of films since 2000 that I would legitimately call "great."
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Richly subversive
jdesando14 April 2009
"The blues was like that problem child that you may have had in the family. You was a little bit ashamed to let anybody see him, but you loved him. You just didn't know how other people would take it." BB King

The fine recent animations such as Persepolis and Wall-E have set an intelligence standard hard to equal, much less surpass. While Sita Sings the Blues at least equals those in intelligence and wonder, it surpasses them in imagination considering the parallel stories of wives unfairly abandoned by their husbands are set in modern and ancient times, based on the well-know Ramayana story in India.

Although the animation seems a primitive 2-D next to Pixar's successfully realistic product, director and almost everything-else-in-the-picture Nina Paley suffuses the frames with brilliant colors and variable landscapes. Heroine Sita is shaped in circles and curves to make her voluptuous and expressive in an endearingly abstract style.

I have never seen such richly subversive animation that pushes the feminist agenda without offending. The story, after all, is clear about the failure of mankind over the millennia to stop the sexism that puts women through humiliation without retribution. Paley's success at entertaining with a wildly imaginative palette and lovable characters and cats contradicts, however, the generalization that all women suffer degradations centuries old—she is an artist and entrepreneur, who, faced with a restrictive copyright law that doesn't let her market the film because of Jazz singer Annette Hanshaw' 1920's performance (the music is in the public domain, but not the publishing) distributes her film free (find it in 10 installments on YouTube).

Hanshaw's Betty-Boop like singing is the apex of pleasure in this multi layered story, whose intricacy is richly rewarding, sometimes difficult even for Indians to decipher, such as the three Indian voice-overs who wittily try to figure out the details of the Ramayana legend. I rarely make the time to return to a film before I report on it—this time I will happily return to hear Sita sing the blues and put the beautiful mosaic into order.
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Original, funny, and educative
Imdbidia6 February 2011
This is an animated film based on the Ramayana, performed and produced by independent American director Nina Paley, who offers the movie for download, under a Creative Commons Licence, on her website.

The movie intertwines four different types of animation, each one offering four different approaches to the same chapter of the Ramayana. There is the story on how the movie was created and how the author came to think of it, how her personal life got mixed up with the project. There is the story of the chapter told straight forward. There is a musical version of it in which Sita -the main character- sings some classic blues that convey what is happening in the story, expressing Sita's feelings and mood. There is, finally, a review of comment of the story told made by two hilarious Hindu shadow puppets, who offer a witty interpretation of it expressed in an every-day language. There is even an intermission, as it happens in Indian cinemas, with a cute and kitsch show.

It can be confusing at the beginning, but once you understand what is happening, you immerse yourself in a movie that is original, clever and entertaining. Something completely different of what you are used to see.

The music is great, not just because of the blues.

The film has been controversial because the director did not know that the songs were still under copyright, despite the singer being dead for many years. The family sued the director for an astronomical sum, but they ended reaching an agreement in which she still has to pay $50,000, which is a tremendous amount of money for a starving artist who made a film almost entirely on her own, with Indian musicians and actors contributing to the music and voices for free, and her own money and donations.

There are not many independent animation movies being made by women. Only for that the story deserves praise. However, what makes the movie so good is its quality and originality, and its sense of humor.

You can donate -just if you want- and view the movie -for free- by visiting the website of the movie at triple w, sitasingtheblues dot com.
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"Sita sings the Blues" it's a clever, funny and original revision of the epic poem "Ramayana", from a satirical point of view; however, it still manages to be very faithful to the original story, combining many different animation styles (All of them very good) in order to create parallels of the poem with a break-up story that takes place in the modern times.

The musical sequences, with the songs of Annette Hanshaw, strangely enough fit very well with the tone and style of the movie. Nina Paley manages to combine very well the comedy with drama and the music and the result it's excellent.

This stylish retelling of the Ramayana deserves more appreciation that it is receiving. It is easily one of the most original animated films ever made. I loved it, and I don't even like musicals.
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Beautiful-even if the bits about her marriage don't really belong
dbborroughs22 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Nina Paley's animated musical that combines her collapsing marriage with the tale of Sita and Rama.

The exception to the rule that flash animation really isn't the way to go for feature animation. A beautiful marriage of music and image. This is one of the most romantic movies I've seen in a while (for the most part). This is a film that has rightly gotten a great deal of press about how its music rights issues have prevented a real distribution, which everyone says is a bad thing. And it is. This is a great film that proves there can be real adult animation.

I absolutely loved the first half of this film Its just a neat little treat. The problem is that the duel structure of the film, the tale of Sita and that of Nina Paley doesn't work. Actually the part that collapses the film is the Paley portion of the film. Why does her marriage implode? We don't know. She's simply told don't come back and then she is "left in the wilderness" the problem is that we are given so little to go on it makes you wonder why the story is there. This is related to Sita how? I'll be damned if I know. It makes no sense to me and it weakens the film.

Still when this film works its gangbusters. if you love music and image and magic and stuff you have to see this film...just because its neat.

Between 7 and 8 out of 10
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That was weird
ericstevenson14 November 2016
This is one of the strangest animated movies I've ever seen. It's mostly because it doesn't follow the same animation style. It was weird seeing these puppets talk about the story and then seeing it told in three different kinds of artwork. There was this fourth animation style about this woman and her boyfriend which had nothing to do with the main story. The actual Ramayana is mentioned only once in this part. With that being said, I really did enjoy this movie. It's always great to learn more about Hindu mythology.

I really have to say that the Ramayana anime is a better movie. The animation is better and for me and it tells the story in a more interesting manner. The dialogue kind of reminded me of "Creature Comforts". I mean, it sounded like these were snippets taken from people who were interviewed on the streets. Well, it was really only the puppets that sounded like that. The best animation style was probably the one where Sita was actually singing.

This may be the shortest movie I've ever seen that had an intermission. I think this may have been done in cheek seeing as how we saw the animated characters throughout it. I've never seen a countdown before. That should be used in more movies. I'm glad to be more familiar with Hinduism and this was a very interesting experience. It did come off as too weird sometimes and hard to follow, but it's still worth watching the whole way through. Well like I said, it isn't long. ***
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Sanskritic Betty Boop sings the blues in rousing animation of Indian Classic
Barev201316 April 2015

Sita Sings the Blues To start with last things first, this highly varied Florence Indian film week came to a rousing close on December 11, 2010, with a brilliant feature length animation entitled "Sita Sings The Blues". SITA is the heroine of the Indian national epic known as the Ramayana, a tale close to the heart of every Indian person. In the story she follows her husband Prince Rama into exile in a forest where she is kidnapped by the evil king Ravana of (Sri) Lanka. While remaining faithful to her husband, Sita is subjected to a variety of temptations... Director Nina Paley is an American animator who was inspired by a reading of the Ramayana in 2002. In this hilarious semi-modern adaptation of the classic Indian epic Sita looks like a Sanskritic Betty Boop, and does indeed sing the blues at various stages of this rip-roaring 82 minute piece of work. In the film filmmaker Nina finds herself in a similar situation when her husband who is in India on business decides to break up their marriage via e-mail. Shadow puppets narrate both the ancient Indian tragedy and the modern Western comedy which are intertwined, all with musical numbers choreographed to 1920 Jazz standards. The visuals are a juicy blend of Walt Disney and classic Indian imagery and the result is a totally enjoyable flick that I hope will be seen widely for the sheer joy it radiates. PS: All the songs are by twenties American blues singer Annette Hanshaw,
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Pure magic
The_Film_Cricket3 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Nina Paley spent four years making the film on her own computer, and is credited the film's director, writer, producer, editor and animator. The result of her labor is a strange, confounding, colorful, daffy and sometimes hilarious imagining of the legendary Indian folk tale of "The Ramayana." In it, Ramayana (referred in this film simply as "Rama") is a blue-skinned Indian prince who dumps his wife when he suspects that she committed adultery while she was in the clutches of the creature who kidnapped her. The story is narrated by three wisecracking shadow puppets who discuss the story in an effort to orient themselves – and us – on the progress of a story that is probably far more complicated than it needs to be. Meanwhile, in another parallel story, Paley tells her own autobiographical journey of how her husband dumped her and left her with a broken heart that ultimately resulted in her creating Sita Sings the Blues. The main story, though, involves Rama being forced into exile by his father, at the request of his wicked stepmother who wastes no tears on her blue-skinned stepson. She tells him – with an Indian accent – "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out." Rama is married to the beautiful Sita, and asks her not to join him in his exile, but Sita is determined that a woman's place is next to her husband. She sings the rapturous joy of being with Rama through Hanshaw's evocative jazzy tune "Here We Are" as the two lovers spent time playing hide and seek. Her joy isn't even deterred when Rama kills a group of blue demons who come out of the woods to do harm to the couple. It is the songs that evoke the most magical moments of Sita Sings the Blues. Sita (pronounced "See-tah"), who looks like a Middle Eastern version of Betty Boop, sings Hanshaw's songs with a sexy, laid-back style and always punctuates the numbers with a happy "That's all" (which was Hanshaw's trademark). All of the songs speak to the situation at hand, and every time Sita opens her mouth to sing, it brings a smile to our faces. Even when she's sad, the film's visuals still evoke a jolly tone. Paley allows the film's visual palette to compliment what is happening to Sita during these musical interludes: When she sings "Am I Blue?" she literally turns blue. When she sings "Lover Come Back to Me", it is accompanied by repeated scenes of her lover dropping her. Sita maintains her loyalty to Rama, but trouble is afoot when an evil ten-headed king named Ravana is informed by his sister Surphanaka (sporting a nasty set of fangs) that Rama has killed his prized flock of blue demons, so he plots to get revenge by kidnapping Sita. Spurring Ravana on to the idea of a kidnapping, Surphanaka describes Sita this way: "She is the most beautiful woman in the world. Her skin is fair like the lotus blossom. Her eyes are like lotus pools. Her hands are like… from… lotuses. Her breasts like… BIG… ROUND… FIRM… JUICY… LOTUSES." Ravana asks his underling to transform himself into a golden deer to distract Rama while he kidnaps Sita. Blissfully unaware of the kidnapping plot, Sita is snatched right out of her house while in the midst of singing of her devotion to Rama with "What Wouldn't I Do for that Man", a song that eventually proves prophetic. Anguished over the disappearance of his beloved Sita, Rama plots to rescue her with the help of the monkey warrior Hanuman who – if I understood correctly – was apparently created by the gods just for that purpose. Sita, meanwhile receives a threat from Ravana that if she doesn't agree to marry him, that his blue demons will cut her to ribbons. Hanuman shows up to rescue Sita while she mournfully sings "Daddy Won't You Please Come Home." It is during this number (which includes Sita's own claranet solo) that Hanuman proves to be an adept warrior as one of the blue demons sets his tail on fire and he, in turn, uses it set fire to Ravana's palace. He leaves Ravana's island and returns to tell Rama the whole story. Why Hanuman didn't just take Sita back with him is a question that the narrators debate. Rama and Hanuman amass a giant army of monkey warriors to return to Ravana's island and rescue Sita. The plan goes into effect as Sita happily sings "Who's That Knocking at My Door?" The blue demons are dispatched with ease and the ten-headed Ravana is decapitated over and over and over again. Sita is delighted to have her beloved come and rescue her, however he is thoughtless, suspicious and jealous. Rama tells her "You have lived in another man's house so you are unfit to be my wife. He cannot have kept you in his house for so long without touching you". Seeing Sita as damaged goods and cuts her loose. Sita is broken-hearted and sings of her sadness with the melancholy tune "Mean to Me". Sita Sings the Blues represents all the reasons that I love the movies. It is lively and fun, it tells a great story that is equal parts comedy, drama, romance, heartbreak, adventure, comeuppance, revenge, all mixed into a musical that is bouncy and fun. It tells a story that is universal in a way that we've never seen before, using various techniques and camera tricks to tickle us and treat us and allow us regard it with wonder. I like this movie a lot.
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Pretty good, but could be much better.
bourgia-f11 September 2014
I didn't find this movie especially amazing. It's entertaining and good because it kind of invites us to get to know this beautiful culture more closely, while telling one of its stories. But I think that what comes to be the best aspect gets washed away by this weird and silly American humor Nina uses. Under my point of view, the Sita + Rhama part should be more pure, in the sense of having less goofy aspects (like Rhama kicking her, letting her fall from his arms or stomping on her), which, to me, are something to add comic relief of some sort, not helping to the narrative. Sadly I couldn't get to grasp the storyline like it would've come directly from India, and that's what I like to feel. In Nina's place, that is what I would have done.
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Sita sung the blues....That's All :)
eklavya-cwk26 April 2014
Now trust me this movie is one of the greatest movie ever made till date. Amazing style with all that background music and animation. I hated this film but i can't forget its awesomeness.

Now the time of insight. This film is a boundary or i should 'no men's land' between un-trust and over-trust. Now 'no men's land' is not defined by anyone and it can have ANY characteristic as we have seen on our earth in various wars because this region is governed by no-one. In similar ways, this film has a characteristic of MOCKING. Laughing on someone is different then mocking someone. A lot of people who knows about Sita will protest for such a film at the same time they are dubious about Sita's authenticity and also at the same time they will worship Sita with their usual rituals. But the point that i find about movie is that the moment it starts mocking a lot of things it looses. Seriousness is crucial for development, even the seriousness in fun but mocking is anti-seriousness.

Now anyone who can penetrate India (Bharat) will get enough proof that indeed Ramayan and Sita were real, just like the proof they have that they are breathing oxygen yet unseen by their eyes. At the same time their are folks who call all this epic saga of RAmayan just a work of fiction to preach people at most or to establish themselves. But the moment the movie Sita sings the blues got its way through mocking it lost something that is so important yet very difficult to gain. Sita sings the blues could have been made as a non mocking movie but its not that way and therefore its shamelessness is at peak. Anyone who doesn't understand Ram or Sita will sure enjoy this movie. Anyone who doesn't understand Ramayan will sure hate this movie just to defend their pride.

In all such attempts are the examples of freedom of thoughts and speech and at the same time the freedom to be ignorant, careless, money-minded and innocent fools to loose something. I wonder if they have given this same amount of efforts in understanding Ram and Sita they would have got a 100 times more. But God has granted us freedom to do anything and the result is pretty clear in this movie.
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Before we start this review,
A_Different_Drummer16 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Before we start this review, it may be intriguing to the reader to learn that for well over 100 years a controversy has surrounded the Ramayana (and other ancient Indian texts) about whether the stories are based on truth or not...? Recall that Schliemann, considered the greatest archaeologist of all time, found the remains of Troy by following clues in the allegedly fictional tales. This film is very challenging to follow because it uses a device almost never used today -- the "background" chorus of voices that comment on the movie while it is happening. Around the mid-point of the film one of the voices in the chorus quickly mentions that the Ramayana says that Lanka, now an island, was once connected to the mainland by a landbridge and indeed satellites in space using IR filters have proved this incredible allegation is 100% correct. AND NOW TO OUR REVIEW. Most parts of the globe have had their most sacred books from pre-history completely destroyed. In S.A., 1000s of highly detailed Mayan books were destroyed. In China the first Emperor did the same. In the middle east, the Alexandrian Library, the only accredited repository of books before the Flood (with lists of the lost titles mentioned in the bibliographies of the first century Greek scholars) was torched not once, but twice. An argument can therefore be made and the sacred poems or India may be only records that remain of what happened 10s of 1000s of years ago? This film is an extraordinary and brilliant attempt to re-tell the essence of that poem (1000s of verses long) in one gulp, using both cartoon animation and live action. Also it retrieves from history the catchy song stylings of Annette Henshaw, who, oddly, ended all her tunes with the catchphrase "that's all." I would love to compare it to something but I cannot. It is unique and fun and unforgettable.
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Misleading about Hindu beliefs
ibicella5 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This actually made me pretty uncomfortable. I can tell a lot of time and energy was put into making it. But, I think it is actually a shame this is getting so much attention. I felt like the story was basically about a woman that visits India, has a bad experience in her personal life, and then decides rather arbitrarily to try and relate that to Hindu religion. Except, the connection is not as strong as she would imply-- to the point that she is literally misrepresenting Hindu religion to the Western world.

I guess it's sort of like... if someone was suggesting Christianity is a religion about baby killing because of that one Bible story about Saul, except even worse, because this utilizes an uncommon *interpretation* of a *disputed/controversial* text (that some people even believe was written with malicious intent).

The issue is, not everyone even interprets the texts she is referencing like the film presents. In fact, I am genuinely sad if this is someone's first introduction to these deities, because this is not a very common interpretation of this religious text. For example, a belief I have heard often is that Rama truly loves Sita, and he drives her to give oath by fire not because he himself ever even doubts her fidelity, but because he wants her name to be cleared and that she will be respected and accepted as queen.

For those that *accept the legitimacy of*, and even like, the controversial "last chapter" represented in this film (which contains stylistic and other differences from the rest of the text and some believe was written at a different date by a different author, possibly even with ill intentions!), where he ultimately leaves her at the ashram with the sages... generally, they liked it because the idea was more that Rama had to make a choice between the duty of a king and his own personal happiness, and ultimately gave up even what he loved most in the world - being with his true love - for duty. So, in other portrayals taken from the same text, it might be that he leaves her outside the ashram, where the sages live, but he is shown sobbing and considering death, and he is clearly devastated when he sees he cannot be with her. The context is supposed to be there, that those deities are actually soul mates. The idea that he was throwing her away because he doubted her, and continued to doubt her fidelity, is actually not what everyone necessarily even believes! (It is best to just ask people how they felt and why!)

In this way, I feel it's spreading misinformation about Hindu religion, and was not very considerate. Yes, there are ethical issues which could be discussed respectfully, but, this wasn't quite on the mark. I felt so bad for Ms. Paley about her husband. But, this husband that left her, obviously, was just a man, and not God. And he was not having to make any hard choices.

So the comparison was weak and really was not done in the best taste, either. Unfortunately, I don't think this movie was a particularly academic, particularly helpful, nor particularly respectful handling of the subject matter. It just seems more about unrelated personal feelings than anything else. The animation was lovely, though, and personally I also liked the very end because I liked the idea he would serve her and try to comfort her after such a hard life. Also, I could feel so much pain and passion in this work, and really liked a few scenes. Though overall, I'm afraid it might be seen as hurtful.

I'm really sorry about this awful husband, Ms. Paley! However, I think people perhaps should just take with a grain of salt the idea that her husband was like Lord Rama; as per my own reading and discussions with others, I expect not everyone is going to agree with that.
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A Monumental Personal Effort
truemythmedia17 July 2019
"Sita Sings the Blues" is a film by Nina Paley. With this film, Paley has managed to do several things by which I, as an independent film maker, am both impressed and feel compelled to recommend to others.

The first is that the animation is all done solely by her. Granted it isn't always flashy or complex but considering that it was all done by one person and obviously taking advantage of the computer's ease of use, it is astonishing what one person can produce today. The hours it must have taken to complete this work will never be known as I am sure they were countless and frustrating.

The next thing is the origination of the concept for this work. It is always bold to tell a story which shows how you were hurt and how you may have been a little silly, but then to couch that honesty in an ancient mythology from another culture and risk accusations of appropriation or misuse takes even more courage.

The last thing I admire about this film is that Nina Paley has managed to stand by her principle's. I don't know whether the chicken or egg came first with this film but the film uses music by Annette Henshaw, a 1920's and 30's singer, which Paley does not own the rights to. However, Paley doesn't believe in copyright law as it is currently used in America and has thus opted to use the music regardless.

Normally I would find this reprehensible but she has stuck to her guns on this one and has even refused to copyright or charge for "Sita Sings the Blues." She encourages people to use her artwork in anyway they wish because she believes that all art belongs to everyone and all art is derivative. I don't agree with all of her philosophical points on this but I do admire the tenacity it takes to commit yourself to a set of values that might cost her an easy livelihood based on licensing, distributing, and merchandising rights.

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