I was pleasantly surprised when I read the latest edition of In & Around Harrisburg (Issue No. 15, Jan. 13-27, 2011) and spotted a listing for an upcoming showing of Nina Paley's Sita Sings the Blues at the Davis Theatre in Concord, NC.
Why "pleasantly surprised"? It's not simply that this film is beautifully done, with all the bright colors of Indian culture vividly parading across the screen at a dazzling pace. It's not even just the hilarious, almost Monty-Python-esque narrators' dialogue. Nor is it the incredible soundtrack of Annette Hanshaw's 1920's-era tunes. Let's forget for a second that the story itself is a lovely one and is told here in a lovely way. I'm intrigued by the story behind the story.
Now, you can read for yourself the film's crazy history at the film's official website, http://sitasingstheblues.com. But the synopsis runs something like this: girl has cool, creative film vision; girl creates film to match her vision; girl runs smack dab into the ugly copyright culture's prohibitive approach to … everything; girl goes into more debt to get legally upright; girl then does something completely unorthodox — she gives her work away for free. Oh, and girl and film are arguably more popular now than they likely ever would have been under traditional distribution models.
As someone who makes his living writing (for the most part) free software — that is, software which itself costs nothing and for which the original source can be readily acquired and used and modified and redistributed by anyone who wants it — I constantly see the benefits of this permissive, sharing-oriented mindset. But it's been interesting to learn of Paley's own growing awareness, ultimate adoption, and now outright evangelism around the same permissive distribution model as applied to audiovisual works of art.
So if you find yourself looking for entertainment that's both fun and culturally educational (Sita… is a retelling of the epic Indian Ramayana tale), consider checking out this free showing of the film on January 20. For details, see the official showing information page at http://cabarrusartscouncil.org/news/?p=355. [Parents: It's been a few months since I saw the film, but I seem to recall that it had some elements that, in my family, at least, would earn it a PG-13 rating.]