Rhymes for Young Ghouls (Canada, 2013)

rhymes-for-young-ghouls_alternativeDirected by: Jeff Barnaby. This ought to top up my Can-Con for the year nicely, and also give me a chance to see some Aboriginal film, which, outside of Alanis Obomsawin, I’m sorely lacking in. This movie got a bit of buzz, and I was pretty peaked by the trailer, which makes it look like an exciting, fresh new indie film based in some real-world, down and dirty sociopolitical modern Canadian politics, namely the world of the reservation, the residential school system, the Aboriginal genocide in general, and the conflicting worlds of Aboriginal spirituality and hardline Christianity. Most importantly, this movie looked cool, and I mean that sincerely—the great Jamie Hewlett-looking artwork, the face-paint and mask iconography, the gritty 60’s Canadiana of a reservation, jean jackets and weed. It didn’t look like a standard, yawn-inducing, unintentionally funny, stereotypically low-budget, low-standard, fluffy, CBC, grandparents, postcard-friendly quote-unquote “Canadian production”: it looked like a movie that people would actually want to see; it looked like a great movie that was Canadian. Now that I’ve seen it, I can say that it’s definitely a good movie that’s Canadian, but maybe not a great movie that’s Canadian. But for Canadian movies, we’ll take what we can get. This director is doing something good here, and even if this movie doesn’t single handedly spark a revolution in English-Canadian films (and it won’t), I definitely wouldn’t mind if it did. And honestly, the fact that this is a movie that deals—if even in just a small way—with residential schools and Canada’s uncomfortable but essential reckoning with its history, and it’s a movie that has a chance of being seen and enjoyed by mainstream audiences because it’s well written, well acted, and an interesting, non-insulting, and overall satisfying story, puts it pretty high up in my books. There might be a little bit of weird stuff going on with the resolution at the end—the only solution to this frustratingly unjust, embedded, systemically shitty situation is violence. Specifically, the only solution to avoid the narratively catastrophic near-rape of the protagonist is for the little kid to unexpectedly blow the bad guy’s head off, and for the dad to take the fall for it, so the protagonist gets saved. She definitely kicks the most ass of anyone in the movie, but ultimately she needs saving. And of course, the institutional racism that this whole system is built on is personified in this movie in an easily neutralized single person or couple of people. But hey, it’s not the job of one low-budget indie Canadian movie to provide our whole country with the symbolic material to work through our history of racism and violence and willful ignorance and cover-ups and more racism, etc. This is a good film, so maybe I’ll leave it there, and encourage everyone to see it.

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One response to “Rhymes for Young Ghouls (Canada, 2013)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2015 | Offhand Reviews·

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