Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Have you seen "Sita Sings the Blues"? It is am amazing piece of work, as it stands alone, but also because of the struggles its filmmaker, Nina Paley, had to endure in order to get the film to see the light of day.
The movie is a sort of witty, swinging 20s jazz-influenced rendition of the Ramayana, in the context of a woman with a broken-heart. The heartbreak is based on Paley's own life experience (check out her blog for all the gut-wrenching details). Earlier this year, Roger Ebert called the film “astonishing original” and something that has him “smiling from one end of the film to the other.” And, truly, no words can capture how amazing the animation is.
Paley did everything in the movie herself--she wrote it, she scored it, she animated it, she edited it. Everything. And the film was complete in 2005. Between then and now, Paley was in her own personal hell, going nearly bankrupt trying to let the film free. The problem? She did not properly license the jazz songs she uses in the film. After a recent screening in SF, Paley walked onto the stage and said, "You've all just participated in an illegal act."
As explained in the New York Times: "Though...[the] recordings are not protected by federal copyright, those who own the rights to the songs themselves charge tens of thousands of dollars that Ms. Paley does not have to use them — which is also more than independent distributors have offered for a theatrical release."
So what does renegade Paley do? The obvious thing: Release the film for free.
If you haven't seen this you have to. It is smart, irreverent, hilarious and just plain beautiful. Your kids will love it too. And if you want to support Nina Paley's vision, and her crusade against what she considers "oppressive copyright law," buy one of these super cool tshirts.