Blood Quantum (2019)

Blood Quantum
Director: Jeff Barnaby
Writer: Jeff Barnaby
Cast: Michael Greyeyes, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Forrest Goodluck, Kiowa Gordon, Olivia Scriven, Stonehorse Lone Goeman, Brandon Oakes, William Belleau, Devery Jacobs, Gary Farmer, Kent McQuaid, Felicia Shulman
Part of: frame[o]ut in cooperation with SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 24.7.2020

In the Mi’gmaq Red Crow Reservation, things are brewing. Gutted fish start moving again, dead dogs rise and Reservation sheriff Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) has to divide his attention between that and his own sons – Lysol (Kiowa Gordon) and Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) – who were arrested the night before. What starts as a weird and complicated day turns into an apolayptic event. It turns out that zombies are taking over the world – and it’s only the Mi’gmaq who are immune, turning their Reservation into a sanctuary for survivors. But just because they are immune doesn’t mean that they’re out of danger.

Blood Quantum is a very interesting take on the zombie apocalypse in the light of colonialism, but it does have some issues regarding its character work. Still, it’s enjoyable and also moving.

The film poster showing a masked and armed figure swinging a bloody scythe.

The title itself – Blood Quantum – already hints at the political nature of the zombie allegory here. After all, blood quantums were used for racist politics pretending to be biology and science. I did expect the film to go into this concept a little more, but it probably couldn’t have without either reproducing the faux-biology or taking its own concept apart. Nevertheless, it is a pity that it doesn’t.

Politically, there is still enough of interest here, though. The connection to the land that becomes especially obvious in Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman) and his ending. The tension between reservations as exile and as sanctuary – which they both are. And of course the idea that the Indigenous population can handle the sickness that everybody else cannot. It would definitely be interesting to dig into this a little more in-depth.

Joseph (Forrest Goodluck), Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) and Lysol (Kiowa Gordon) prepared to fight.

But there are some things I struggled with in the film. While it isn’t my first language, my English is pretty good, but I had trouble understanding the actors at time. Whether the trouble lay with the sound mixing, the projection I saw or the actors mumbling, I couldn’t say, but it did marr the experience a little for me. Especially since it made some character motivations even harder to understand – and the script already isn’t at its best when it comes to that.

I also thought that the way the story treats Charlie (Olivia Scriven) was pretty misogynist. Fortunately, we also got Joss (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) as a counterweight, so there is at least one female character in the film who has a little more to do.

But other than that, I very much enjoyed Blood Quantum and what it tries to do. I’m definitely glad I caught the (probably) only screening in Austria.

Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman) holding up a severed head.

Summarizing: Interesting, but a little rough.

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