Post-Election Travel

Where do you go when the world around you is collapsing? You usually go to see your Mom in vague hopes to return to her womb and stay there until the bad weather blows itself out on its own.

So I packed 7 t-shirts and went to see my family in Latvia. They were happy to see me, dotting, fretting and cooking local delicacies for me. I ate elk meat sausages steeped in duck fat and when the family went to sleep, I stayed in the kitchen checking emails on my laptop and the panic inducing news about the president-elect forming his new cabinet.

But before long my secret was out.

- You used to make films, - my Dad said one morning. - Now all you do is read about politics.

- Why your laptop is open again? - my Sister asked at the second breakfast. - All those political news are making you sick.

- You know too much about politics! - my Mom shouted before lunch. - This does you no good. I can see clearly - it is an addiction. Stop it!

I cried and I argued that this was my vacation, that I also sometimes check business related emails and that social media is part of what I do as an artist. But more I cried and defended myself, more it became obvious to my family that I indeed had a big problem. They advised to fight the addiction. So I closed the laptop and didn't work on the Thanksgiving blog post I wanted to write.

They were right - all that crying I did in private during nights definitely was not healthy. Something inside me was falling apart to correctly reflect the falling apart world outside me.

Then I went to Poland, to Etiuda&Anima festival in Krakow.

It is a festival dedicated to juxtaposing animated films with live action and documentary etudes, with a special focus on students and their needs. I was at the festival in 2015, doing a presentation called "Autoportraitwhere I had to draw and show my creative process in front of 120 people. A nerve-wracking experience because I am no good at drawing (especially not in front of other people!) but the festival liked it and invited me back with "Rocks In My Pockets". They also asked me to compile and present 3 programs of the best New York animated shorts.

So now I was in Poland, a country that a year before had similar election results as we just had in USA. Instantly, politics became the main subject of any conversation I had. I wanted to know how Polish people, especially women, cope under a very conservative government.

- The politicians are changing the laws, so that is very bad, - one person explained. - But on every day level, the institutions and organizations like universities, festivals, support groups etc are still there, so you don't run into black holes of cultural destruction.

- Did you participate in the women's protests in early October? - I asked a young festival volunteer. The Black Monday had inspired me and gave me a hope that we can do something if important laws we care about are going under an axe.

- You bet I did! - she said. - I don't like abortions but banning them is not a solution, so I had to join the protest. And we won!

- The women won the Black Monday! - I told to a levelheaded projectionist. - So we, people, have power.

- Yes, but it was only one law, - he said glumly. - The government is repealing 100 laws a day and there is nothing we can do. Can't protest every day.

Nearly every screening at the festival was packed and films were excellent. The Best of New York Animation program had a great audience, too. In solidarity with Polish women I wore black each day at the festival. Maybe one day we'll need Polish women to show solidarity with us. What would be the color of our protest?

Presenting Best of New York Animation program at Etiuda&Anima

Presenting Best of New York Animation program at Etiuda&Anima

Surprisingly, a lot of people showed up for "Rocks In My Pockets" screening.

Crowd gathers at   Kijów Centrum   cinema before "Rocks In My Pockets" screening

Crowd gathers at Kijów Centrum cinema before "Rocks In My Pockets" screening

I was pleased, but also stressed out. What if those nice people hate the film?

- Why are you here? - I ask "Rocks In My Pockets" audience. - Why do you want to see a funny film about depression? Don't you have better things to do?

- Why are you here? - I ask "Rocks In My Pockets" audience. - Why do you want to see a funny film about depression? Don't you have better things to do?

We, as a society, are only as good as our artists who challenge us, train us to think critically. The moment artists stop to cry at nights about election results and stop caring about something other than their own success and creature comforts, we are screwed. 

But we also need festivals like Etiuda&Anima that are crucial meeting points between artists and audience. It probably works in little steps, too small to see from Space, but it is good to know it is there.

THANK YOU, Etiuda&Anima, for your work!



Lets Celebrate World's Mental Health Day!

One day when I was about 12 I had a panic attack that I might be losing my mind. Before that moment I had perceived my mind as a reliable source of somewhat clear thoughts in accord with what other people like my Mom, Dad and a history teacher I respected thought of reality outside my mind. But suddenly I became aware that the clarity of my thoughts was only a thin veneer covering up the other side of my Mind that was dark, sinister and capable to spin out of control.

- I will go mad if I don't watch out, - I thought. The only way I knew to watch out was to watch my mind. So I started to scrutinize my mind and it's products. Between pretty keen observations (the neighbor's jacket is thorn, he must had a fight with his other neighbor again) and rational learning (the Thirty Years War took place from 1618 to 1648) it managed to mix in some thoughts that were a bit off and needed an additional attention:

- How valid is this thought about running away from home and living in a forest eating moss?

- How about this thought to continue swimming away from the beech until I reach Sweden? 

- Should I follow this thought of jumping from the roof of a building to see if I can fly?

Somehow in the light of my examination the thought of swimming 150 km from Kurzeme to Swedish Island Gotland (150 km) lost it's appeal. Of course, swimming in cold water made me feel invigorated and powerful, and Sweden had always emitted irresistible glow of a forbidden fruit, but the rational part of my mind reminded me that the Baltic Sea was filled with Soviet military boats looking for potential defectors swimming to the West. Any defector would be shot, then fished out, identified, and then whole family plus the dead defector would be shipped to Siberia to be eaten by swarms of mosquitoes and bears. The thought of harming my family sent me back to the sandy beach of Kurzeme.

Turning lights on to my mind has been my strategy of staying sane. Talking to other people about my thoughts and feelings has been very helpful, too, to identify the ones that are perceived as scary and irrational by other people.

I am happy that we are celebrating World's Mental Health Day on October 10th! It helps us all to understand better mental illness and helps to erase stigma attached to it. If we were not afraid to be stigmatized for speaking about our condition we would be more open about it and seek help before it is too late.

Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival is screening my feature film "Rocks In My Pockets" as part of their Mental Health Day program on Monday, October 10th at 2 PM, at AK Bell Library Theatre in Perth.

MK Gallery is also screening "Rocks In My Pockets" on October 10th, at 7 PM in Milton Kaynes, UK, to celebrate the Mental Health Day and to incite a conversation around genetics, stigma and hope in the face of mental illness. 

If you are curious about the film, please take a look at the trailer:

Happy Mental Health Day!