Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013)

Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Director: Jeff Barnaby
Writer: Jeff Barnaby
Cast: Devery Jacobs, Glen Gould, Brandon Oakes, Roseanne Supernault, Mark Antony Krupa, Cody Bird, Nathan Alexis, Kenneth D’Ailleboust, Kent McQuaid, Katherine Sorbey
Seen on: 17.7.2018

Plot:
It’s 1976 and by law, all First Nations children under 16 have to attend residential schools. For the Red Crow Mi’kmaq that means being locked up at school and at the mercy of the sadistic truant officer Popper (Mark Antony Krupa). So it’s not surprising that Aila (Devery Jacobs) tries to keep herself away from school, like many other First Nation families. So far she managed to pay Popper off by selling weed with her uncle Burner (Brandon Oakes). But when her father (Glen Gould) comes home from prison, things become unbalanced.

Rhymes for Young Ghouls takes on a difficult subject with a lot of understanding and creativity for a full emotional impact. It’s really strong.

Film poster showing a cowering naked girl from behind with the film title written across her back.

If you’ve never been to Canada, it’s likely that you never heard of residential schools, a concept that institutionalized blatant racism and abuse against First Nations people, stealing generations of children to educate them into being “good Canadians” which meant distancing them from their cultures and families – by any means necessary. And those means were often brutal.

Rhymes for Young Ghouls tackles this difficult, painful, traumatizing part of history with a lot of understanding – probably not surprisingly since Barnaby is Mi’kmaw himself and stories told about oppressive structures are always best told by the people being oppressed. But that is not to say that it’s an automatic achievement at all. Barnaby does a really great job, turning this huge thing into a personal family story – and adding a couple of fantasy elements and an awesome animation sequence.

Devery Jacobs in the film.

The film doesn’t go and pretends that Mi’kmaw people are without fault – there were and are issues, a lot of which are caused by white people and racism – but it’s very clear that they are without blame when it comes to residential schools. And it eloquently makes the point just how cruel the system was.

The cast is great, especially Devery Jacobs who carries most of the weight. I was utterly captivated by the film – and for me, it was a great introduction to the topic of residential schools.

Brandon Oakes, Devery Jacobs and Glen Gould in the film

Summarizing: Strong.

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