Audiences cheered by cartoon tale of women’s mental woes

Latvian animation artist Signe Baumane’s autobiographical feature film ‘Rocks in my Pockets’, a ‘crazy quest for sanity’, opened this weekend exclusively in Latvian cinema halls before making its theatrical premiere in North American cities next month.

The film's voice soundtrack is narrated in Latvian by the director herself for this week's run at movie theaters in Riga and Sigulda.

A cross-generational tale of inherited mental health risks in a family line of women, the film was viewed by a 1300-strong audience at its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary Festival in the Czech Republic, considered a sensation as the first-ever animated feature to be selected for the main screenings. Afterwards more than 5000 festival-goers watched the film, receiving it warmly.

“The film is about such serious matters. Yet in my view it’s healing and empowering how she’s able to speak about them, first of all, so openly, secondly, with a great sense of humor and thirdly, with such deep self-analysis and understanding of what goes on in the mind and soul,” describes film expert Kristīne Matīsa.

The Karlovy Vary audience understood very well the context of Latvian history, where social norms discourage talk of depression as a family secret. The jury gave it the FIPRESCI International Film Critics Award.

FIPRESCI award reviewer Cerise Howard wrote in her summation that Baumane’s work is “full-to-bursting with captivating images, in its highly sculpted widescreen backgrounds and in the witty and concise animation of its multiple characters and gallows humour flights of fancy.”

The festival jury also surprised the director by awarding her a special commendation for its spiritual theme.

‘Rocks in my Pockets’ screened as well at the 8th Two Riversides Film Festival in Poland August 2-10, and took the Best Feature Film prize at the 7th International Animator Festival in Poznan in July.

New York-based Baumane is a protégé of famous American animator Bill Plympton, but ‘Rocks in my Pockets’ is her directorial debut, supported by a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign aimed also at the worldwide Latvian audience.

Baumane writes of her experience making the film for the past five years on her blog:

“Why do people make films on their own and go through this suffering? Why such taste for self-punishment?

But, like the pain of childbirth is notoriously forgettable, I hope the pain of making the film with be forgotten, too, and soon I’ll conceive another one in one joyful hour of pure fun and self-abandon. Can’t wait.”

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