BCM320 – Sita Sings the Blues (2008)

This weeks topic was globalisation (a topic I’m fairly familiar with) and the screening an animation I’d never heard of! Globalisation is far from a new concept to me, and as far as we discussed it in class, I definitely am of the middle ground in terms of my opinion of it. I know that is inevitable and that it will bring both positive and negative connotations, but it is something we will just have to adapt to as a society. Globalisation brings the world closer in every way imaginable, although we may not live in a foreign country, many of its resources are accessible in one way or another, particular through the exponential mediation of the world.

Sita Sings the Blues (2008) from director Nina Paley. The Indian mythic tale of the Ramayana is explored in a humorous but quite informative discussion with three shadow puppets as well as paralleling event from the directors life. The animation style changed throughout the film, which I believe was a nice touch and made it more dynamic, as well as setting a different mood and theme depending on what animation style we were witnessing. Starting off with the film, I was rather skeptical, it felt a bit all over the place, and the initial conversations between the puppets was rather conversational and sometimes hard to follow. Over time though this became quite endearing to me! It reminded me of all the drunk history videos out there. People knowledgable on a subject dramatising and arguing about the specifics of historical events. In this light its a lot more accessible than that of a traditional storytelling that can get dry. People definitely made comment on the power of oral storytelling, the original form of communication. For another subject I’ve been looking at Roland Barthes 1967 essay The Death of the Author and how storytelling has nothing to do with the author and everything to do with the audience. It is performative and oral storytelling is inherently performative which Sita really shows.

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I don’t know a lot about Indian culture or mythology and it was rather interesting to get this full story in such a bright and interesting way. I’ve always been interested in mythology, which can be entirely blamed on Rick Riordan’s novels like Percy JacksonKane Chronicles and Magnus Chase, all of which I grew up reading and loving. Greek, Roman, Egyptian and even Norse mythology has been investigated so rigorously in western culture whereas I have not come across much Hindu mythology. It’s interesting to wonder why this is?

I want to touch briefly on cultural appropriation and how it is normally (and often rightfully) seen as a negative of globalisation. But in my opinion Paley did a rather respectful job in her animation. Although she did tell the story from the viewpoint of the female, I thought this better suited the parallel she was trying to show. However I can see where tension would enter in copying traditional and cultural art styles etc. It’s a tough point and I’m interested to read other people’s opinions on the matter.

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