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World Cinema, Film Review: Sita Sings The Blues (2009) 15/02/2017

Figure 1: Sita Sings the Blues (2008) Poster
This film review will focus on the film Sita Sings the Blues, this animation tells the story of a girl called Sita, who finds the love of her life but due to a series of unfortunate complications, has to prove to her lover Rama. The story also follows Nina's journey in her life, as her boyfriend decides to move to India for work, only for them to break up.

The film was released in 2008 and was completely done by one person, Nina Paley. The entire film is created by her, except for the music which was done by Annette Hanshaw and the voices were done by a number of voice actors. There is a lot of controversy in the film because it kept getting taken down due to copyright infringement the film had multiple issues at release.

This film narrative is a little hard to follow at times, however, some serious credit does need to be given to the creator of the film. This entire thing was created by a single person which is an unbelievable feat for a single person, the whole film is over an hour and generally works. It shows off that Nina Paley has serious talent and deserves to be appreciated.

Figure 2: Sita
The first thing that needs to be addressed is that the film is American in origin but based off an Indian story so this film, is kind of half Indian. Now as stated the film is based off an Indian story and was adapted in America, however, something that should be noted, and that is the use of the narrative. Now this tale tells the story of how the woman known a Sita seems to have everything go wrong at once. She gets kidnapped, neglected and just has a bad time in general, but the way the character is developed can be related to something like the jungle book, where a character goes on a journey of message rather than a journey of growth. What is meant by "Journey of Message" is that instead of the character going through change, the character is meant to be an embodiment of a message. The message being about Karma, Respect and not realizing what you had until it's gone.

The story also has the ideals of redemption and satisfaction, with the ending tying up most loose ends before the actual end. Some narrative elements like Freytag's Pyramid and Hollywood formula can be seen but every now and then the film breaks the 4th wall, initiating a commentary on what is currently going on and the opinions of some of the viewers. There is also an intermission which from an animation perspective can be appreciated by this almost seems out of place, almost breaking what little immersion there is.

Something to note however about the film is its the way it shows the story, using different art styles in order to show different parts of the film. The depths of these art styles will be touched upon later but for now, the main focus is the way they are shown. Now, these art styles are distinct and are only used when a different part of the story is being told, so, for example, the musical parts of the animation are very different to the narrative parts, and these switches almost seem like well-placed chapters in the film. Whilst this method works to an extent it doesn't work completely, apart from one art style, the transition from the 'Sita Sings the Blues' Tale to Nina's story, showing not only a reason as to why she chose to do this story with the parallels between the two.

Figure 3: Commentary
Right, the art styles vary, cover a large number of themes and are all different in their own aspects. First off there is an underlying theme of trying to tell a story whilst still being its own individual art piece at the same time. Some sections make use of After Effects animation methods more than other sections, which use Flash/Animate. The flash animation is simplistic, in fact, the whole film is simplistic in its own respects. However, the depths of that style can be deep and elaborate, for example, the after effects sections, the characters are clearly like puppets and the way they have been colored, shaped and altered conveys the messages that were intended for the characters.

Furthermore, the flash animation section is stylistic in the way that anything that is intended to be in the scene should be recognizable but also not too complex. This animation style rough resembles the peanuts animation style, having well thought out drawn messes. Now when the term "Mess" is used that is not to say that the content is bad, but is crafted in a way which everyone can recognize, relate and understand. There is a lot more emotion in the animations with the flash animations, however, having things like exaggeration in character animation really sells the character of Sita, and of course her cat Lexi.

Lastly, the art style that respect the Indian art style the most are the paintings and the complex Illustrator themed drawings. The Indian art style is known for complex pictures made with simple shapes, this is seen throughout the entire film but is made of a blend. However at the start of the film the art style is fully embraced, an animation which pays homage to the original art style in new creative media being seen. Another version of the merging of art styles are the painting/pictures animated with subtly, so thinks like nobody animation, facial differentiation and no follow through aspects. However, since the original image would be based on a painting it would make sense to keep these images as still images rather than moving parts. A painting is something to be appreciated, and when it's moving around constantly it might be a little harder to appreciate the content being shown to the viewer.

So Sita Sings the Blues is something that should be appreciated, a single person made this and the running time is just over an hour. It can be seen how the film is Indian in origin, however, its also easy to spot the American influences as well. The technologies used in the industry and the methods used to create the film. So in a nutshell the film as about an Indian story, created with Indian influence but is American in origin.

Image Bibliography

Figure 1: 
Sita Sings the Blues (2008) Poster

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