Guided by the spirits of her departed mother and brother, an Aboriginal teenager plots revenge against a sadistic Indian Agent in this fiercely irreverent debut feature from Canadian director Jeff Barnaby.
Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Those familiar with Jeff Barnaby's short films (including The Colony) know he's one of the most unique voices to emerge from Canada in quite some time. His much-anticipated debut feature, Rhymes for Young Ghouls, offers even more persuasive proof of this. Set against the backdrop of the residential schools tragedy — when thousands of Canadian Aboriginal children were separated from their families, culture, and language, abused and worse — the film is steeped in mythology, with an epic, yet intimate sense of scale, much like the groundbreaking films that came out of Isuma (the company responsible for Atanarjuat, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, and Before Tomorrow).
But Ghouls adds its own contemporary pop-culture awareness to the mix. It's as if an S.E. Hinton novel were re-imagined as a righteously furious, surreal thriller.
The heroine, Aila (Kawennahere Devery Jacobs), is, at fifteen, already so thoroughly versed in the drug business of her father, Joseph (Glen Gould), and her Uncle Burner (Brandon Oakes) that she runs her own crew. Joseph's return from a prison stint signals an end to her reign as the reservation's drug queen; it also piques the interest of Popper (Mark Antony Krupa), the reserve's corrupt and sadistic Indian Agent who has no qualms about crushing anyone who comes between him and money.
In the process of unravelling the mysteries that plague her community, Aila has guides Popper doesn't: most importantly her mother Anna and her brother Tyler.
As befits a film that deals with centuries
of abuse and neglect, Rhymes doesn't separate
the past and the present. What emerges
is an angry and poetic howl for lost lives,
lost opportunities and lost loved ones — a
fever dream that contains too much fact to
be shaken off as fiction when it ends.