Thursday, 7 February 2013

Sex and Cartoons

As I mentioned when discussing our most recent Skwigly podcast a couple weeks back, I've recently become a huge admirer of the work of Latvian animator Signe Baumane, a woman whose staggering perseverance now sees her in the post-production stage of her first feature-length animation "Rocks In My Pockets", a mammoth undertaking considering the minimal funds and crew behind it. She's been raising funds the last month or so for the sound and music budget and there isn't a doubt in my mind that the Kickstarter goal will be met in time.
"Rocks In My Pockets" (Signe Baumane, 2013)
It's rare that one encounters a practitioner so immediately endearing, and it doesn't take much research to determine why Signe is held in such high regard by her peers. Her effervescent, quirky and oftentimes jet-black humour is perfect for the types of films she makes, and her candour as a storyteller is incredibly refreshing; Story is always put first, before appearances or concerns that the audience will be shocked. The raw honesty of some of her autobiographical reminiscences on the "Rocks..." production blog are alternately hilarious and gut-wrenching with her idiosyncrasies laid completely bare, but that impulse provides a real air of authenticity and assurance that what she's set out to achieve with her film comes from a very sincere place indeed.
"Birth" (Signe Baumane, 2009)
I'll readily admit that my heightened receptiveness to a film such as "Rocks..." can doubtless be attributed to the relatively recent release of "Throat", which still carries with it a lot of anxiety as to how well it will be received in the long run. So to see someone else tell a personal story with raw, balls-out honesty is very comforting and, given it's been achieved as an entire film, greatly inspiring. As the interview we did for the last podcast was heavily edited to focus on "Rocks..." and her campaign. I felt there was a great deal of additional material worth sharing with the world that extends to her prior experience, particularly that surrounding one of her most successful projects to date, "Teat Beat of Sex", an episodic series of sexual reminiscences told from a female perspective. They fit perfectly into the pantheon of animated films by the likes of Joanna Quinn, Ruth Lingford and Michaela Pavlátová that celebrate female strength and sexuality, one of my favourite subjects since probably way too young an age, kicked into gear by fairy godmothers like Betty Dodson and Susie Bright. Lord knows how I came across them in my preadolescence, but they sure set me on a noble path.
"Teat Beat of Sex" (Signe Baumane, 2007)
As well as the humour, what gives "Teat Beat..." its strength is its sense of identity; Though Signe concedes in the interview the lead character is something of a composite, no misguided efforts are made to conform to any sociological ideologies, favouring honesty in much the same way "Rocks..." seems to. It gives the audience the opportunity to relate to it on their own terms; While I'm a staunch supporter of Signe's organic juice policy, for example, I'm less behind her squash-discrimination policy. There's also a sweetness and naïveté to its execution, with its simple design work, stream-of-consciousness metaphors and visual malapropisms. Other standout shorts of hers include "Dentist", "Love Story", "Five Fucking Fables" and "Birth", with several others I've yet to watch in their entirety. I'd really recommend giving the extended interview a listen, even if you already heard the podcast segment. This is over twice the length and goes into numerous areas worth learning about, such as the role of social media in self-promotion, our mutual fondness for Ruth Lingford and the bizarre semantics of acceptable sexual content on an online platform. You can download the interview here or stream it below (brace yourself for my Mariella Frostrup-esque flu voice):
But most importantly please check out her blog and campaign and throw some sheckels its way while there's still time (pledges are being accepted until Valentine's day). I really, really want to see this film get funded, A) Because it's part of this whole game-change-in-progress for the future of indie animation, which I'm obviously hugely invested in, and B) Because I really want the DVDs I have coming to me once the target's reached.
¡Viva la Revolución!

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