Seder-Masochism: Death of the Firstborn Egyptians

Animator Nina Paley Reveals a Chilling Scene from her Upcoming Feature Length Film

‘This scene is actually pretty tame compared to some others I have planned,’ animator Nina Paley told us of Death of the Firstborn Egyptian– just to give us some idea of the fright we have in store for the full-length film.

‘It’s just my interpretation of a story that’s foundational to Western culture,’ she explained.

Raised by Jewish atheist parents, and observing Passover since she was a young child, Nina was compelled to make a film about this scene from Exodus in the Torah/Old Testament.

The 2-D “cut-out” style animation was created to the rhythm of Spider Suite – the song by the Duke of Uke and His Novelty Orchestra. We spoke design, copyright and asking permission with Nina:

The Plus: Animation is such an intricate process, what do you find most difficult?
Nina Paley:
Even though I was an illustrator long before I became an animator, I find designing characters, backgrounds and props the most difficult part. It always takes longer than I think it should. Once I’ve designed all the pieces it’s fun to move them around. I find the beat of the music and animate to it.

TP: How did the music choice of Spider Suite come about?
The Duke of Uke is my long-time acquaintance, David King. He said to me, “if there’s anything on my albums you want to use, go ahead,” and I told him, “I’d do that without your permission!” My vow for Seder-Masochism is to not ask permission for anything. It just happens that this one song is by someone I know, who would happily grant me permission, but out of principle I’m not asking for it.

TP: What are your plans for this video?
It’s just one scene in Seder-Masochism. I need to make the rest of the film now, which I expect will take 3 years or so. When it’s finished I’ll release it Free/Copyleft, as I did with my previous feature film Sita Sings the Blues. I’m an anti-copyright activist, and Free Culture is part of my work. The film’s fiscal sponsor is the nonprofit, which accepts donations for it.