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in Filmmaking
on Nov 17, 2008

Beginning this week, on November 20, Filmmaker’s annual collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art and the IFP, the “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You,” unfolds at the museum. Five films we think are among the best that played this past year’s festival circuit and which don’t have, at the moment, distribution will be screened, and there will also be Q&A’s and a panel discussion as well.

Thursday night’s opening film is Nina Paley’s wonderful and near-indescribable animated feature, Sita Sings the Blues. Here’s how we describe it in the catalog:

Written, directed, and animated by Nina Paley. Paley was inspired to make the transition from comic strips to animation after traveling to India and discovering the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic about the star-crossed love between Prince Rama and his wife Sita. Recognizing echoes of her own romantic travails in this timeless Indian story, Paley has created a marvelously inventive, charming, and poignant animated musical—winner of the Best Feature award at the prestigious Annecy Animation Festival—using a spirited chorus of Indonesian shadow puppets, the torch songs of 1920s jazz singer Annette Hanshaw, and dazzling animation techniques that recall everything from Lotte Reininger’s silhouettes and Busby Berkeley dance routines to Max Fleischer’s Betty Boop, Mughal miniature painting, and the 1950s design of the UPA animation studio.

I asked each of the filmmakers to send me a short statement about the relationship of their film to the world, filmmaking or otherwise, around them. Here’s Paley’s response, and I highly recommend you check out her film this week. It plays Thursday at 6:00pm and Saturday at 3:00pm.

Here’s what Paley emailed to me:

Today I’m thinking what a blessing in disguise not finding a distributor has been. It’s given me much needed time to think about the industry, and movies, and audiences, and what I really want as an artist. But especially audiences.

I’ve learned for myself that audiences can now finance films (eliminating the need for old-style top-down investors) and I’m developing faith that audiences can distribute films too. In fact they already do, but Hollywood calls it “piracy.” I call it distributed distribution, and it could be the future of culture. And yes, it is the internet that’s allowing films like mine to connect with audiences more directly, and hopefully allowing audiences to distribute culture among themselves without constant supervision and regulation by any single authority. Likewise it is new technology that allowed me to make “Sita Sings the Blues” in the first place, alone, on a home computer.

Exciting times! I’m thrilled to be part of this change.

Also: at Spout, Brandon Harris subjects Paley to the Media Diet.

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