Know Your Indie Filmmaker: Signe Baumane
In this ongoing series, we profile the most interesting independent animation filmmakers working today — the artists who, through short films and other projects, change our ideas of what the medium can do.
This week’s subject is Latvian-born American animator, Signe Baumane.
In a sentence: Before she shifted towards animated features (My Love Affair with Marriage, Rocks in My Pockets), Baumane created a sizeable body of short animated work that touched upon sex, gender, relationships, and mental health with a fierce sense of humor and refreshing bluntness.
Where to start: Teat Beat of Sex (2008). For me, this remains Baumane’s masterwork. It felt like the first time she really opened the door and let us inside. What we find is a deeply funny, sensitive, and fearless recollection of her sexual experiences.
What to watch next: Birth (2009). A scared young pregnant woman seeks advice from older women to help her through the chaos of giving birth. They don’t exactly help to ease her fears.
Other key works: Veterinarian (2007), Tarzan (2014), Woman (2002)
Influences: Says Baumane:
I grew up in Latvia, which at that time was part of the Soviet Union, and I was really influenced by Eastern European poster art, illustration, and animation. My greatest influence was Stasys Eidrigevicius, a Lithuanian-Polish illustrator whose rich, imaginative work still fascinates me. Then, of course, there was the great Czech Jan Švankmajer, whose surrealistic approach to animation has had an everlasting influence on me. Russian animator-director Yuri Norstein made a moody, realistic short film called Hedgehog in the Fog which I have probably seen more than 78 times!
When I came to New York, my introduction to Bill Plympton’s work influenced me in an entirely different way. It gave me permission to be funny and silly. And I learned a lot from Bill on how to make films cheaply.
My work is a combination of these two contradicting influences – the serious, moody, artsy Eastern European with upbeat, funny, gag-based American animation.
Says: “I think about sex every nine seconds and every 12 seconds I think about killing myself.”
Currently working on: Her latest feature, My Love Affair with Marriage, premiered in June 2022 and continues to travel the festival circuit.
Pictured at top: Teat Beat of Sex