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EBERT SINGS FOR SITA

by
in Filmmaking
on Dec 31, 2008

Wow — check out Roger Ebert’s love letter to “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You” Gotham winner Sita Sings the Blues on his blog this week.

Here’s how he begins:


It hardly ever happens this way. I get a DVD in the mail. I’m told it’s an animated film directed by “a girl from Urbana.” That’s my home town. It is titled Sita Sings the Blues. I know nothing about it, and the plot description on IMDb is not exactly a barn-burner: An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Uh, huh. I carefully file it with other movies I will watch when they introduce the 8-day week.

I get an e-mail from Betsy, my old pal who worked with me on The News-Gazette. “Did you see the film by the mayor’s daughter?” This intrigues me. The daughter is named Nina Paley. I do a Google run and discover that Hiram Paley was mayor from 1973-1977. I am relieved. This means the “girl” probably didn’t make the film as a high school class project. In fact, by my rapid mathematical calculations, she may have been conceived in City Hall. I used to cover City Hall. Worse things have happened there.

By this point, I’m hooked. I can’t stop now. I put on the DVD and start watching. I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to the other. It is astonishingly original. It brings together four entirely separate elements and combines them into a great whimsical chord. You might think my attention would flag while watching An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Quite the opposite. It quickens. I obtain Nina Paley’s e-mail address and invite the film to my film festival in April 2009 at the University of Illinois, which by perfect synchronicity is in our home town.

There’s a lot more that follows, including a discussion of the film’s music rights blues and a comments thread that’s up to almost 100 responses.

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