Nina Paley’s New Way of SharingBy Lavina Melwani • Aug 5th, 2009 • Category: 24/7 Talk is Cheap - The Blog, Cinema
Syndicated comic strip artist and first time filmmaker Nina Paley has learned to make some mighty creative lemonade with the lemons handed her by life. Paley, who first heard about the travails of Sita when she read ‘Ramayana’ during a visit to India, was basically dumped by her husband via an email message. This trial by fire inspired her to interweave the two stories of abandonment through animation, shadow puppetry and the vocals of jazz great Annette Hanshaw.
She poured all her resources into the full-blown animated film ‘Sita Sings the Blues’, only to learn that releasing it was illegal for though the recordings of the songs were in the public domain, the lyrics were not. Unable to pay huge amounts to get the license for the lyrics, she decided to resolve the copyright impasse by donating her film to the public. It can be seen and downloaded freely on the Internet, and has shown at countless film festivals, winning many awards.
Paley went into debt to pay the licensing fees and can now show it commercially but has become a strong believer in open sourcing: “The experience radicalized me and convinced me that products of the mind are not private property so I freed the film as a matter of principle.”
People can download it freely, and the DVD has just been released, which she says “is the avatar, a physical embodiment of the film, packaged in a beautiful aesthetic.” Says Payal Sethi of FilmKaravan, which is distributing the DVDs: “Paley’s almost single-handed production of this film is a feat of epic strength in itself, and we are fueling its existing momentum with grassroots marketing and distribution.”
As the poster child for shared culture, Paley has gained fans and word of mouth has built up the buzz. Speaking engagements, revenue sharing, artwork and product sales are in the works. Lemonade is sweet indeed!