Lines and Colors art blog

Sita Sings the Blues (Nina Paley)

Sita Sings the Blues - Nina PaleySita Sings the Blues is an award winning independent feature length animation by Nina Paley.

The film combines an adaptation of the epic Indian story of Ramayana with a personal story from Paley herself. The film won the Best Feature award at the 32nd Annecy Animated Film Festival (see my post on student films at Annecy 2008, and Cartoon Brew on Annecy 2008), and has been receiving rave word of mouth around the net.

Sita Sings the Blues gets its TV debut tonight on WNET (Channel 13, New York), and may be on other PBS stations as well (though not here in Philadelphia).

After struggling with copyright issues which prohibited release of the film for a time, in which there was an unexpected claim to copyright on 1920’s jazz vocals by Annete Hanshaw, Paley has generously released the film through a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license; so for those of us who can’t catch it on TV or in a theater, it is available in its entirety online.

You can view it on the WNET site, or on the Internet Archive, where you can also download it in a variety of formats and sizes ( and where I watched it and will eventually download a high resolution copy), or through other mirrors or BitTorrent Downloads (see the SitaSites page on the Sita Sings the Blues site).

If you like it, and want to show your support, you can donate to the artist in the kind of voluntary purchase that the internet makes possible.

The film, which Paley made primarily in Flash, with help for a specialized fight scene from Jake Friedman, is a triumph of imagination and writing over fancy technology.

It is a visual delight, with a variety of animation and drawing approaches, from direct sketchy drawing to vector patterns to shadow puppets to scanned and composited photographs, like a combination of Yellow Submarine, Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python “cartoons” and the kind of wiggly line sketchiness (“Squigglevision”) often associated with hand drawn independent animated films.

Sita Sings the Blues is awash with colors, both visual and emotional, and bursting with clever ideas and entertaining notions about how to present various subjects, but always in the service of the story, not for the gratuitous display of technique.

Unlike so many of the formulaic, manufactured CGI films that the big studios crank out to meet their accounting schedules, Paley actually has a story to tell, two of them in fact.


One response to “Sita Sings the Blues (Nina Paley)”

  1. I watched this as soon as I saw it was online. It’s really fabulous, and the fact it was done almost entirely by one person is even more amazing. Especially the fact that so many different animation styles are mashed in there.