Friday, 5 February 2016

Sita sings the blues film review

Sita sings the blues (2008)

Sita sings the blues is the work of Jewish-American Nina Paley and has been heavily influenced by Indian mythology. Paley has animated the full feature length film with little help from others which in itself is an astonishing feat. 

Figure 1. Nina at the airport (2008)

Sita sings the blues is a mix of different styles which can be allocated to certain situations and time periods, but also changes depending on the music Paley has been using to tell the story. There are squiggly hand drawn frame by frame animations which take place in nowadays America or India, flash animations combines with songs from the 1920’s with Sita looking a lot like the Indian version of Betty Boop with bold round lines, solid colours, tiny waist with big hips and characteristically big round eyes, mirroring the art style of the 20’s. 

 Figure 2. Sita 1920’s (2008) 

Other art styles in Sita sings the blues are traditionally looking Indian deities in silhouettes, comparable to Lotte Reinigers animations, with the deities discussing the plot and explaining what happens to Sita, and, to some degree, what’s happening with Nina in the modern times. Emotions were also attributed their own style, as both love and loss are a big topic of the film, they are being expressed with irrational sparks and fireworks with characters emerging from behind them, goddess like. Collages are being used for the Indian songs with mismatched images.

 Figure 3. Narrator (2008) 

The narrative of in Sita sings the blues is not necessarily a 100% true to the myths, as some important details have been left out, for example the man who kidnapped Sita seems to be her father in Indian mythology, but there is no mention of that in the film.
The use of songs is very predominant and shows the narrative almost like a musical, while the mix of two particular styles of music is very interesting, as the music has been deliberately chosen from two different countries and ages, they’re being used as a stylistic method with matching animations. 

Figure 4. Emotions (2008)

The story is a mix up of the old Indian mythology combined with a modern love story, as the American main character (who coincidentally is called Nina) seems to identify with Sita, an Indian woman from mythology. Similar events are happening to both of them highlighting the parallels between them both: as Sita’s husband is banished from his own country, Nina’s boyfriend moves to India for work-related reasons, Sita goes through her trial of fire while Nina flies to India but is rejected by her boyfriend on several occasions, and finally Sita is swallowed by mother earth for being pure when Nina gets dumped, Nina’s feelings are being portrayed in a similar fashion to Sita going through her trial by fire, both emerging stronger at the other end.

Sita sings the blues is a powerful film that artfully combines many topics and styles and feels deeply personal, not necessarily made for an audience but for Paley herself, from herself.This film is hard to rate as there are no comparable one-person-feature-length animations out there, but she has done a splendid job with capturing a sense of deep emotional connection to both the main characters and combining the art styles to tell a story, rather than a collection of scenes, somehow, everything fits together. Definitely worth watching!

Illustration List:
Figure 1: Paley, Nina (2008) Nina at the airport [film still] available from: (accessed: 5/2/16)
Figure 2: Paley, Nina (2008) Sita 1920s [film poster] available from: (accessed: 5/2/16)
Figure 3: Paley, Nina (2008) Narrator [film still] available from: (accessed: 5/2/16)
Figure 4: Paley, Nina (2008) Emotions [film still] available from: (accessed: 5/2/16)

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