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The Rama Blues

Once again, I recently came across a nugget of animation available online for free (or voluntary pay) download.
It's called Sita Sings the Blues, animator Nina Paleys' 2008 take on the Ramanaya, which is the sanskrit version of Homers Odyesy , featuring Gods™, Monsters™, Love™ and all the features of a classic epic. This has been taken, complemented with some very good jazz singing, performed by Annette Henshaw, and turned into a refreshing take on mythology.

While the film does follow Ramas journeys through early India and Sri Lanka, it focuses on Sita, the wife he loves, then wrongs, then loves again until finally… I'm not giving it away. Suffice to say that Rama is portayed in varying shades of grey. It is a refreshing take on this part of literary history (I never got through all of that verse myself, being more of a prose person…), somewhat chatty in parts, but certainly making the tale very accessible to the general public.

What drew me into this movie is not merely a fascination for all things different, but also the style of the film: A humongous 1-woman Flash project, Nina Paley has animated most of it on her very lonesome, the animation is crisp, simple. It also uses Indian Shadow figures here and there for exposition, making it watch like a mashup of traditional shadow theatre and modern vector animation.

The film is also an interesting example of how convoluted copyright can be: While the original recordings of the Anette Henshaw songs have long been in the public domain (i.e. no-one holds the copyright to them), the notations, lyrics etc. are not. This means that while free to listen to, the use of those songs in the film is not, resulting in a long, drawn-out and expensive legal case.

That said, the film makes for good watching and listening, in addition to the inescapable pædagogic effect.

The title will take you to the films' website, clicking here will take you to a 2-part interview with Nina Paley by Dominic von Riedemann.


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