This stunning screenshot, which I'm leaving as large as I can in this format so you can soak it in, is from Nina Paley's new (to me, it came out in February of 2008) film, Sita Sings the Blues. I have never heard of Paley before, nor have I heard of the Indian story this is based on, Ramalaya. However, I heard some nice things, and once I found out it was available for legal free download, I decided to watch it. I am so glad I did. What we have here is a creation of stunning originality, vision, and, most importantly, it's damned entertaining. Honestly, I haven't enjoyed a movie so much in years, and I include recent favourite Tootsie in that statement.
There are a lot of different things going on. First, there's the story of Ramalaya. Then there are Shadow Puppets which, in charming, funny, and unscripted dialogue, explain the story. Voiced by three people who grew up in India, these were the funniest parts of the movie. Since every region of India has its own interpretation and variation of the story, all three had different ideas. The third part is the parallels from Paley's own life, which is what inspired her to make this 80-minute movie. She made it entirely by herself, which is amazing. The best parts were the musical numbers, using old recordings of jazz standards sung by Annette Hanshaw. The recordings have been in the public domain since the 1950's, and are put to very clever use.
You should watch this movie. It's clever, it's funny, it's humble, it's colourful, and it's simply a joy. Here's a link to all the places you can download it or stream it. You can even get a 200GB, 35 mm reel quality download, if you have the space. I wish I did, to be honest. It would be worth it.