Sita Sings the Blues is finally free!

After years of wrangling, Nina Paley's acclaimed, brilliant short film, Sita Sings the Blues is finally available as a free, open-licensed downloads. Paley spent a shocking amount of time and money fighting over the copyrights to the 1920s jazz music that is integral to the film (some have likened it to Betty Boop in Bollywood, which is catchy, but fails to capture the fantasticness of the film), Paley's finally secured a license that allows her to distribute the whole movie, for free, forever, under a remix-friendly license.

I hereby give Sita Sings the Blues to you. Like all culture, it belongs to you already, but I am making it explicit with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. Please distribute, copy, share, archive, and show Sita Sings the Blues. From the shared culture it came, and back into the shared culture it goes.

You don't need my permission to copy, share, publish, archive, show, sell, broadcast, or remix Sita Sings the Blues. Conventional wisdom urges me to demand payment for every use of the film, but then how would people without money get to see it? How widely would the film be disseminated if it were limited by permission and fees? Control offers a false sense of security. The only real security I have is trusting you, trusting culture, and trusting freedom.

That said, my colleagues and I will enforce the Share Alike License. You are not free to copy-restrict ("copyright") or attach "Digital Rights Management" (DRM) to Sita Sings the Blues or its derivative works.

Congratulations, Nina! It was a long ride, but man, was it worth it!

Sita Sings the Blues (Thanks, Andrew!)


  1. why ‘SHORT film’ ? The video timestamp says 1:20:31 … so .. 80 minutes .. not very short … I have not watched the whole thing yet .. looking for some HD download link …

    But how bizarre would that be if such a film could beat Pixar at the Oscars (then again, not sure if the movie fulfills all the academy criteria, or even can)

  2. But what happened behind the scenes? My understanding was that the creator couldn’t get a license for some of the music – what changed?

  3. I’m indian, and been following Nina’s lovely project since it first showed up here.

    I get a sense that Nina’s put all of her energy into this somewhat cathartic project, which is moving, and theres no denying the exciting creative energy of the project.

    However, while i loved the music videos of lovingly done animated clips set to well-chosen blues music released earlier, the final film is a bit of a pot pourri of styles and narratives, and not in a good way.

    And i’m sorry, but bits that play out the story (in a totally different indian-miniature style) sound just like the worst stereotype of ‘head shaking Indian with funny English’ on western media. The music – cheesy indian muzak, voices – Apu’s first cousins , and the corny dialogue with odd ‘Indian’ phrasing grammar? It made me laugh, and i’m Indian. Thats not a good thing.

    The shadow puppet section with Indian voices discussing the story – sound as if they’re sophomores high on pot discussing, i dont know, Ben Hur, for example. Cute in its way, but highly distracting from the kick-ass blues music videos.

    These lessons in the Ramayana storyline – I can imagine for the benefit of Western audiences – also have little to do with the bit about Paleys personal story playing in between – and for what its worth, her ex-husband came across as a complete dork. He had DTMFA almost visibly written on his forehead.

    And so those achingly lovely blues music bits with their sweet accompanying animations – which are amazing enough to stand by themselves – got lost in the crowd. So sad.

    Can we get another cut of SSTB with just those? I’d pay good money for it.

    Loved the Intermission bit!

  4. I watched this a couple of weeks ago, it’s really a great film – visually stunning. But not a short film, oh no.

  5. “Can we get another cut of SSTB with just those?”

    Download the film and then edit it to your heart’s content. Personally I enjoyed the shadow puppets a lot.

  6. At a total loss as to why the copy owners of this music would fight over its inclusion in this film. That stuff was basically sitting on a shelf, then Paley finds it and includes it in an exceptional film that not only gives the music a new stage, but does it in a beautiful way, while they do nothing, but sit on their ass/es.

    Paley’s amazing work is presenting this wonderful music to the world. That the owners are not ready to sell the music, tells me they’re still sitting on their asses while Paley works.

    Sam, you may want to check this out.

  7. P.S. I love the way she uses different animation styles to convey different bits of the story. For me, this film is perfect. This film’s imperfections will only be known to the creators.

  8. @ FoetusNail — I would imagine that the copy owners feel that if they don’t get top dollar for their “property” that would diminish it’s value.

    IMHO “Intellectual Property” is an oxymoron.

  9. Sita Sings the Blues is WAY overrated. No disrespect, but I found the movie uninspiring. The opening sequence was fantastic and had me hooked, but I was lost soon after that point. I just is not that good. It is at times humorous and makes a nice dig at religion, but nothing too great here!

  10. Just stop calling it a “short film.” It is a feature-length animation! By not getting that detail right, you inadvertently fail to give Nina her full due. She made a critically acclaimed feature for less than what most studios spend on bottled water. A short film is 3 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes. 80 minutes: FEATURE, please!

  11. We watched Sita last night and, for me at least, it lived up to the hype. I loved the multi-layered approach to the story-telling (the “recommended reading” at the end of the film includes Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia). I loved all the music. The monkeys are cute. A++ WOULD WATCH AGAIN.

    P.S. Add my voice to those who say “not short”. I think calling it that both underplays Paley’s accomplishment and sets up a false expectation in folks who might think this is something to watch in a quick work break or something.

  12. I liked it personally. It was oddball in a sort of Monty Python sort of way. The first 30 minutes I found difficult to work through but once it got going, it didn’t let go. Hell, I was exhausted when I saw it, but I was able to pay attention well. That said, it’s a cult film. It’s either hit or miss, you know?

    Yeah, I can see how it’s insulting, though. It played on stereotypes, but at least it introduced people to the *idea* of Indian epic poetry. I hadn’t looked it up on Wikipedia since my former college covered it in a class.

    Oh, and ironically I’m burning it onto a DVD right now. I want a copy I can watch on TV with friends and family.

    And my favorite bits were when Sita was singing. Best part of the movie, by far.

  13. @SAM #12 & #14

    This film deals with modern interpretations/recollections of ancient legends. The English-speaking Indian college students’ narrations fit very well within this archetype. You should stop taking yourself so seriously.

  14. Some images in the film remind me of this 2007 video, and oddly enough, they also have the heart as main theme. Just judge by yourselves:

    (Disclosure, I am the author of Heartmachine).

    I loved the film, anyway!

  15. Great film that embraces a diversity of animation styles; frankly I found it better than either Wall-E or Kung Fu Panda, and should have at least been on the nomination list for the Oscars.

    Do support and donate to Nina!

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