PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Sunday Evening Video: Sita Sings The Blues

Okay. I feel experimental again today, so let’s try something special. If this works, when you click the “read more” link, you will get to see, embedded at the end of this post in ten parts, “Sita Sings The Blues,” a new 80-minute original animated feature by Nina Paley, the creator of the animated cameraless modernist epic, “Pandorama,” as well as the comic strips, “Fluff,” “The Hots,” and “Nina’s Adventures.“Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by email. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as “the Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.”

During the production of “Sita Sings The Blues,” Paley, frustrated over the hassles of clearing music rights for the film, became active in the Free Culture Movement. You can read all about it at her website.

Paley has decided to make “Sita Sings The Blues” available for free, to anyone who wants it. She explains in an open letter, “I hereby give Sita Sings the Blues to you. Like all culture, it belongs to you already, but I am making it explicit with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. Please distribute, copy, share, archive, and show Sita Sings the Blues. From the shared culture it came, and back into the shared culture it goes.

“You don’t need my permission to copy, share, publish, archive, show, sell, broadcast, or remix Sita Sings the Blues. Conventional wisdom urges me to demand payment for every use of the film, but then how would people without money get to see it? How widely would the film be disseminated if it were limited by permission and fees? Control offers a false sense of security. The only real security I have is trusting you, trusting culture, and trusting freedom.”

Paley goes on to explain how she expects to make money doing this, “There is the question of how I’ll get money from all this. My personal experience confirms audiences are generous and want to support artists. Surely there’s a way for this to happen without centrally controlling every transaction. The old business model of coercion and extortion is failing. New models are emerging, and I’m happy to be part of that. But we’re still making this up as we go along. You are free to make money with the free content of Sita Sings the Blues, and you are free to share money with me. People have been making money in Free Software for years; it’s time for Free Culture to follow. I look forward to your innovations.”

You can read the complete letter here, and kick in a few bucks for her incredible efforts here. And you can also support Paley by buying some of the cool merchandise here.
If you find this compressed, embedded version of Paley’s movie to be to your liking, you can download higher-resolution versions, including hi-def 1080-p incarnations, at Archive.org.