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"Rocks in My Pockets": A Family HIstory of Mental Illness, Told in Cartoon 

Tuesday, Nov 18 2014
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Signe Bauman's animated film looks quite a lot like you'd expect a Latvian cartoon to look. It's being compared to the films of Jan Svankmajer and Bill Plympton, but it also evokes the more emotionally straightforward works of John & Faith Hubley, as Bauman tells the story of five women in her extended family through hand-drawn animation mixed with occasional three-dimensional papier-mâché objects. She begins with her grandmother, who dealt with not only the harshness of life in the Baltic state of Latvia during the turmoil of wars and rumors of wars — particularly as dominance of their country is bounced around between the Nazis and the Soviets, each regime worse than the last — but also their native culture's enduring misunderstanding and demonization of the mental illness that runs through her family. This continues through Bauman's own struggles in the supposedly modern world, including an early diagnosis as a "mental cripple." Rocks in My Pockets works on multiple levels, examining not only the stigma of mental illness but also how rough women have had it in more conservative, less-progressive cultures, even without throwing suicidal thoughts into the mix. And the picture is also often very funny, because as Bauman knows, the only way to truly defeat demons is to laugh at them.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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