If you missed Nina Paley’s animated film Sita Sings The Blues while it was making the film festival circuit in 2008 and early 2009, you missed out on an impressive debut film. But don’t worry, you can now watch it online, or even download a copy for yourself, for free.
And if you haven’t seen the film yet, you’re in for a treat. Paley combines several different styles to retell s story out of the Hindu epic the Ramayana. Sita is the wife of Prince Rama, who in a bit of palace intrigue is banished to live in the wilderness. When she is kidnapped by the demon king Ravana, Sita remains true to her husband whom she knows will come and rescue you her. A second story that draws parallels to the the main story focuses on a woman whose marriage is strained when her husband takes a job oversees.
Sita Sings The Blues earned stellar reviews and numerous awards, but never got picked up for distribution due to one minor hiccup- The 1920s jazz recordings of Annette Hanshaw that Paley uses to have Sita comment on her situation at various points in the film were not in the public domain as the director first thought. Although she was able to hammer out a deal with the music’s copyright holders to keep the film available, the legal situation kept distributors from picking up the film.
The upside of this is that you can download the film for free in a variety of formats from its official website or watch online at YouTube (embedded below). Paley is not making a dime from making it available this way, but does see some money from the sales of t-shirts and the like, so think about adding something Sita-related to your wardrobe.