Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sita Sings the Blues

In an earlier post about a short film titled "Fetch," I said I hadn't yet seen Nina Paley's other feature film, Sita Sings the Blues. Well, now I have, and I can see why critics say it is one of the best films of last year, even though it was never distributed in movie theaters. It's incredibly playful, and silly, and touching.

And now it's online. For free. (However, if you like it, you might consider sending Paley a donation. She spent years on this thing, and will only ever make money through voluntary donations.)

Here's a brief synopsis. Like Slumdog Millionaire, it's largely set in and about India. Like Slumdog, it's radically different in structure and style than what we're used to seeing. Like Slumdog, it's uplifting and fun, but sprinkled with depressing content -- both films basically take depressing content and help us get over it, and into a happy place.

Sita's tagline is "The greatest break-up story ever told," and it's an apt tag. The film has several stories, all dealing with breakups, and at least one of them is based on real events. The creator, Paley, was dumped by email by her long-term boyfriend. According to some articles surrounding the film, the dumping that happens to "Nina" in the animated film is pretty close to what actually happened to her. In response, she made a film that blends her own story with the Ramayana (a romantic Indian epic, also about a really terrible break-up), and with a bunch of old jazz numbers by Annette Hanshaw. It doesn't sound like it would combine well, but it does -- it's hypnotic.

Sometimes in the Spring, I teach English 1C, in which the goal is to do deep textual analysis of things like films, novels, plays, or poems. If I were teaching 1C this term (instead of 1SC, which I like better), I would probably be using Sita as a subject text -- a thing to study. It's such a rich weave of intertextual references, feminist re-readings of old stuff, critical commentary (by some narrators in the film, who do a kind of Mystery Science Theater routine), semiotics, and a zillion other things, that I think we could get a lot of mileage out of it. And it's fun.

However, since I'm not teaching 1C, I'll just post the link on the blog. If any of you watch it, let me know what you think.

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