Is it possible to have a tolerable relationship with chronic depression? How does a Latvian artist and animator, working in New York with no funding, realize a unique, noncommercial stop-motion, hand-drawn “funny movie about madness and depression” (in both English and Latvian) and have that movie receive enough worldwide enthusiasm to end up as Latvia’s entry in the best foreign-language category for the Oscars? And how does this artist/animator, who was once diagnosed with schizophrenia—modified to bipolar disorder after her parents paid Latvian psychiatrists a bribe—function and create at such a high level without medication?
These are my burning questions as I sit down with 50-year-old Signe Baumane in her airy, sun-filled Brooklyn studio in an industrial building overlooking New York Bay. Looking on is a small tribe of lushly colored, humorously grotesque papier-mâché people that populate her 88-minute autobiographical feature, Rocks in My Pockets. (The rocks are the symptoms of depression that have weighed down many members of her family, resulting in three suicides and several attempted ones—including Signe’s when she was 18.)
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