Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sita Sings the Blues

This wonderful animated film by Nina Paley is now available free on line. Nina describes her making of this documentary:

"I have more demons, of course. In June 2002 I moved to Trivandrum, India, following my (American) husband who had taken a job there. Upon my arrival I was confronted with his mid-life crisis, a complete emotional withdrawal. This left me without support in a city in which women were 2nd-class citizens, unable to walk alone at night, and not expected to have an identity separate from their husbands. It was in Trivandrum I encountered the Indian epic, The Ramayana, for the first time. Like many westerners, I initially considered the Ramayana little more than misogynist propaganda. Meanwhile I was in the midst of developing a new comic strip for King Features Syndicate, The Hots. After 3 months in Trivandrum, King Features flew me to their New York headquarters for a launch meeting. Then my husband dumped me by email.

Unable to return to my former apartment in San Francisco, or my new apartment in Trivandrum, I moved to Brooklyn. My professional life benefitted, as I began teaching animation at Parsons School of Design and acquiring New York freelance clients. Emotionally, however, my relocation commenced a terrible year of grief. 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. In Manhattan I heard the music of Annette 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."


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