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Sita Sings the Copyright Blues

Boing Boing, Roger Ebert, and the Tribeca Film Festival all love Nina Paley’s brilliant cartoon, which links heartbreak, the Ramayana, and 1920s jazz. Copyright law, though? That’s another story. Find out why.

First things first. Sita Sings the Blues is a completely unique animated feature, mixing up personal pain, heartbreak, the boop-boop-a-doop jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, and the epic Indian poem the Ramayana. A painstakingly-animated passion project for director Nina Paley, Sita is the sum of five years of work and a touching story that showcases a disarmingly bright talent. It is safe to say that there is nothing quite like Sita playing at the multiplex. (It is also a film that some people obsess over—a coworker saw it at last year’s Festival and proceeded to preach the gospel of Sita anytime somebody mentioned anything almost related to it.)

So, for a film that’s won lots of awards and honors—including the Gotham Awards’ Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You—and that has played scores of festivals, including the Berlinale (where it won a Silver Bear) and the Tribeca Film Festival, why can’t the average moviegoer see it?

The answer, of course, is quite complicated for a tiny handmade indie film made by a “scrapster,” to quote Paley. And that’s where things get interesting. Media luminaries like Boing Boing, Roger Ebert, and the New York Times have written extensively about the modern absurdity of Paley’s plight, and what it reveals for artists, copyright, and the work that they want to make.

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Not only is this a great little animated film, currently streaming at Thirteen.org, but it will shortly be available for free download and distribution.

Go read the reviews and the articles about Ms. Paley’s plight; then watch the film. The go check out the film’s website and Ms. Paley’s blog to get the latest news … and perhaps donate a little cash to the cause while you’re there as well.