Monday, July 12, 2010

Sita Sings The Blues

Site Sings The Blues We love to watch movies in our house. If it wasn’t for movies, we might not have a television. This year started with us watching a lot of bad films. Earlier this year, while on our Belize vacation, we saw 2012 and Apocalypto. We didn’t necessarily mean to, but they were there in the room – and it was raining. They were bad.

We finally broke out of the bad movie phase with the discovery of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, by Terry Gillium. It was Heath Ledger’s last film and it was excellent. It broke the run of bad films. Things were looking better.

While we were updating our Netflix queue, something that really needs to be done from time to time, we scrolled through the new releases. We sometimes like to look at animated films, not necessarily the Disney variety, but things more suited to our age. Then Netflix had a recommendation for us, based on our liking of Brazil, Coraline and Brokeback Mountain. OK, with such an eclectic list of movies this recommendation was based on, we were interested. The movie: Sita Sings the Blues.

We watched it and were blown away. Netflix was right.

Indian Epics

I’m going to attempt to avoid any spoilers, because I believe the movie should be seen. Perhaps you should just stop right now, rent the movie, see it online (for free in HD) or buy it! It is a must see in my book.

The movie mixes different animation styles through the film, and uses shadow puppets as the vehicle of a second narrative throughout the film. (There’s a third narrative from writer Nina Paley’s own life, but I’ll let you discover that on your own.) I originally heard the epic tale of the Ramayana in India, in the Himalayas, driving in a car back home from a spiritual pilgrimage. In the car were various family members telling the story, stopping to argue, debate and retell based on their memories. This same storytelling is mirrored by the shadow puppets’ technique throughout the film, and underscores the oral traditions in which these stories were once told (and still are).

The movie brought tears to my eyes, tears of joy and laughter from one moment to the next. The story of the Ramayana from the perspective of Sita, is a tragedy. Add a layer of old 1920s blues music sung by Annette Hanshaw creates the perfect backdrop and perspective to the movie, keeping it a tragedy while making it both enjoyable and accessible.

The movie is billed as “the greatest breakup story ever told,” and it certainly fits the bill. How these things keep happening to poor Sita throughout the story, yet she goes on and on until finally going on, mirrors modern relationships and how we cling to them as much today, as in time long ago.

While I understand that watching an Indian epic may not sound like a fun and enjoyable evening at home, we couldn’t wait. We had high expectations. They were surpassed. I understand I don’t live in the typical American family, but the awards and praise of the movie are well deserved. Give it a try, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

I couldn’t have been happier. I can’t wait to see what writer, director, producer, animator, editor, storyteller Nina Paley does next. Strike one up for Creative Commons licensing. Just one warning, it’s not for kids.

Hazards of Blogging

We both blog in our household and many know my wife as a wonderful writer. I know she wanted to blog about this film and I hope she does. She would definitely compliment and expand on what I’m saying here, well beyond what I’ve done. She was one of the storytellers in that car and can go much deeper than I could ever hope to. I’m looking forward to it, but whether she does or doesn’t, you can check out her writing to the right, in my “Blogs to Read” – click on nsomniasaum.


  1. Well, I was right. She totally blew this topic away.

  2. Thanks Urban. *blushes*
    You're my hero.