I am tremendously excited. I have just found out that feature-length animation Sita Sings the Blues is available to watch for free online because it is licensed under the ‘Creative Commons License’. Amazing.
This film, created in 2008 by American animator Nina Paley, is a truly must-see film. It’s critically acclaimed and is in almost every list of ‘best animated movies’.
Sita Sings The Blues is a fantastic take on the ‘Sanskrit epic’, The Ramayana. It is a visually stunning film, which uses several different styles of animation to great effect. It employs some quite ambitious cultural amalgamation, merging an ancient story with the music of 1920’s jazz singer Annette Hanshaw and throwing in a modern-day plotline too.
It’s a fairly eclectic mix, but it makes for an incredibly rich and relatable film. Essentially, Sita Sings The Blues is a story of two women who are going through some significant trouble with their relationships.
In modern-day San Francisco, a female cartoonist’s world is turned upside down when her husband moves to India to work, then dumps her via email.
In ancient India, a Princess named Sita and her husband, Prince Rama, are put under major pressure when Sita is kidnapped by an evil villain called Ravana. Rama proceeds to rescue Sita but will no longer touch her because he believes that she is now ‘impure’ because she lived under another man’s roof.
The film follows these two main stories, one ancient and one modern, which frequently intertwine, sharing similar themes and events: they are two stories of heartbreak, and the two women’s attempts (and failures) to move on with their lives.
Sita Sings The Blues is a deeply personal film for Paley. Not only is it autobiographical (with the modern day story within the film being based on Paley’s actual break-up with her husband) but she also made the film almost single-handedly. Paley wrote, directed, produced and animated the entire 72-minute film by herself, a fact that I find completely mind-boggling.
The whole film came together as a result of Paley’s personal experiences: she read The Ramayana whilst she was visiting her husband in India, and after the break up of her marriage she found some solace in the book.
Paley wrote on her website:
‘The Ramayana took on new depth and meaning for me. It no longer resembled a sexist parable; rather, it seemed to capture the essence of painful relationships, and describe a blueprint of human suffering. My grief and longing for the man who rejected me increasingly resembled Sita’s; my husband’s withdrawal reminded me of Rama.’
The addition of the music of Annette Hanshaw also came about during this period of heartache: ‘In Manhattan I heard… Hanshaw for the first time. A radio star of the late 1920’s, Hanshaw specialized in heartfelt blues and torch songs. In my grief-addled state, her songs, my story, and the Ramayana merged into one: Sita Sings the Blues.’
It’s a truly fantastic piece of animated film: funny, heartfelt and beautifully executed. Best of all, you can watch the whole film here for free; share it with whoever you like, spread the word!
And here’s the trailer: