Sita Sings the Blues, an animated modern take on the Hindu religious epic "The Ramayana," has been on the festival circuit for several years, screening at hundreds of locations around the world and picking up numerous awards.
But only recently, the film has run into some controversy -- in one of the most diverse communities in the world, Queens -- over a screening event that was originally intended to promote religious unity: Film Screening to Foster Ethnic Unity Stirs Trouble Instead.
In May, he set the screening date: June 26; booked the site, a Hindu temple in Ozone Park run by his uncle; pulled together a panel, including the director, Nina Paley, to discuss the film after the screening; and sent out invitations.It's unfortunate it had to come to this. Honestly, I've been on both sides of this equation in similar situations, and it sucks when the conflict arises from within your own community. I'll admit, I've been on the side of the "offended" and I've also received my share of hate mail and discouragement over what I felt like were the most trivial things.
But then things started to fall apart. And Mr. Narine, who was born in London to Guyanese immigrants and moved to New York when he was 4, quickly learned a thing or two, not just about community organizing but also about the quicksand of cultural conflict.
First, his uncle got cold feet. "He said, 'Good idea, wrong film,' " recalled Mr. Narine, who works as a real estate agent. The young organizer found another place, the Starlight Pavilion banquet hall in Ozone Park, rebooked the event for July 20 and sent out a new round of invitations — glossy, laminated cards that he mailed to hundreds of people.
Then on Sunday, Mr. Narine began receiving e-mails and phone calls from angry Hindus criticizing his choice of film. Dozens became scores; scores became hundreds. They were coming from across the country and around the world. By Wednesday, Mr. Narine had heard from more than a thousand opponents. Most were unkind, some were even threatening. Words unprintable on this Web site were abundant.
Mr. Narine was stunned. "I had no clue the backlash was this bad," he said. "They thought I was working to bring down Hinduism."
It goes to show, even when all parties feel like they're working in their community's best interests, and no matter how many commonalities line up, it's impossible to see eye to eye on everything. More here: Animated Debate Is Curtain-Raiser. And a good perspective here: 'Sita Sings the Blues' Brings out the Bullies.