New York-based animation director Signe Baumane will soon release Rocks In My Pockets, a mixed-media feature-length animated film for grown-ups very much in line with indie features such as Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues (2008), Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s My Dog Tulip (2009), and Bill Plympton’s throng of long-form efforts. Although it is Baumane’s first feature-length endeavor of her own (she has worked on Plympton’s feature films before), her extensive short film oeuvre form an excellent track record. A personal approach and a not-seldom uncomfortable sense of honesty make up Baumane’s unique signature.
It’s not hard to guess that Rocks In My Pockets is autobiographical. The movie is set in the director’s home country of Latvia and spans almost a century of its culture, society, and politics, beginning from the 1920s. As the narrator, Baumane herself guides us through her family’s turbulent history, from grandmother’s failed suicide attempt to niece Linda’s hallucinations about being proposed to. Insanity seems to be a family affair, one that they don’t like to talk about. Except for Signe.
In the film she speaks openly about her and her family’s struggles, recalling fragemented stories of female relatives and trying to bring those pieces together like a puzzle. How come grandmother couldn’t properly drown herself, even though she used to be the smartest girl in town? Why did niece Miranda try to hang herself soon after her son was born? And what about the lonely niece Irba, whose voices in her head kept telling her to slit her wrists, and who eventually hangs herself? Baumane paints a clear family portrait, one filled with disappointment, failed love, and unanswered questions.