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Sita Sings the Future

“To me the great hope is that now these little 8mm video recorders and stuff have come out, some… just people who normally wouldn’t make movies are going to be making them, and – you know – suddenly, one day, some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart – you know – and? make a beautiful film with her little father’s camera…corder – and for once the so-called professionalism about movies will be destroyed. Forever. And it will really become an art form.

That’s my opinion.”

– Francis Ford Coppola (1990)

Recently, the movie ‘Sita Sings the Blues‘ was made available online – for free. If you explore the website for the film, you’ll learn (to great astonishment- if you were like me) that this movie was made by a woman in Illinois named Nina Paley on her home computer. That’s right – ON HER HOME COMPUTER.

I see this event as being a seminal moment in our culture when viewed through a few different lenses:

With all certainty, this is an incredible movie. An amazingly good story from a foreign culture retold and made accessible to Americans through animation and a fun, comedic lilt. This is not a completely unique concept, there is another fellow who liked to do this… Walt Disney. This is no Disney “kid flick” though. There is no aiming for the lowest common denominator here. As Roger Ebert says:

“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.”

– Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

I love that this is one story told at the same time in two eras, two cultures, using materials from a third time period, and includes a running commentary – and it all works together.

If you have ever found yourself teaching a classroom full of students (or teachers) how to use some digital tool, and stopped to wonder ‘WHY? Why am I teaching these Jr. High students to use this movie software so that they can make fart jokes?” then see this as a vindication of what one person can do on their own computer when the right ideas and skills are combined. Keep on keepin’ on, trainers! Don’t sleep until everyone is familiarized with the tools they might use to make their vision come to life.

I see ‘Sita’ as an example of Creative Commons in its highest and purest incarnation. Both in creation and delivery. Much of the film is indeed original artwork, but not all of it. Music is taken from the 1920’s. Imagery surely came from multiple sources. It is a mash-up of cinematic proportions. Most importantly, it is delivered to the people under the same licensing model it was created under – Creative Commons. In my opinion it is the greatest example put forward so far that promotes the ideals of the licensing model.

‘Sita’ is an incredible example as a way to weave together disparate pieces of data together in a way that makes each stronger. Some call this synergy. As a content creator, it gets me thinking about ways that I can apply this model to my own work, or suggest it to others.

One thing that comes to mind right away is the standard “interview” assignment given to middle/high school students across the country every year. What if the students recorded the audio of the interview, then used that as a running narration of a video? I can imagine an interview with a Vietnam Veteran running while photos and video clips from the late 1960’s are playing silently, and musical interludes taken from music of the time period enhancing the whole thing. A student could pull that off pretty easily.

I also see ‘Sita’ as a harbinger. A good one. For years, people have theorized that someday computers would radically change the way entertainment is produced and delivered. The thinking went something like this – If the following ideas are indeed true:

  • a) there are creative geniuses all over the planet
  • b) technology continues to improve
  • c) network access continues to improve
  • d) legal licensing evolves

then people will eventually begin to produce “professional” quality content and deliver it free of charge over the internet.

The way I see it, someday is starting now.

WARNING: Some content in this film may not be appropriate for younger viewers due to implied subject matter and a couple examples of strong language.

WATCH ONLINE: ‘Sita Sings the Blues’

DOWNLOAD:Sita Sings the Blues

Posted in My Thoughts, Quotes, Videos.