As more information comes to light about the past as well as the present impact of the Residential School System on First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada more ways of telling the story will manifest.
This year Toronto’s amazing Indigenous film festival ImagineNATIVE screened two important films – Empire of Dirt and Rhymes for Young Ghouls – that although speaking to the same issues, such as intergenerational violence, stylistically differ. This makes for a deeper reach as each film has the potential to draw upon an alternate audience.
Mi’kmaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls is sleek but not without some grit. The soundtrack of obscure Blues tracks adds even more sexiness. I wondered if I would find this distracting from the character development and the weight of the subject matter. In the end I felt this movie fleshed out the varying perspectives that films like Empire of Dirt and docs on the program of assimilation of Canada’s First Peoples bring to the table. The heroine, Aila, is stunningly played by Mohawk actress Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs who roots the movie with her intensity. It is through her coming-of-age eyes we see the horror that is hard to breathe through but we also see the possibility of magic and hope expressed in her ability not to give up on the wonder of life.
During a Q & A with Jeff Burnaby after RFYG’s screening as part of TIFF Top 10 of Canadian Films a comment was made by a woman in the audience who had grown up on a reserve. She appreciated that despite the painful realities Jeff didn’t shy away from including humour in the film. She expressed that often that side is missing, that the portrayal of First Nations people doesn’t include showing anyone as having a sense of humour. Mi’
Jeff wrapped up his Q & A by stating that “it is up to all of us now, not just Native people, to carry the the torch.”
Hopefully with such films like Rhymes for Young Ghouls non-Indigenous Canadians will be inspired to share in the grace as well as the humour of their Indigenous brothers and sisters and work towards lightening the burden of the past as we all move forward into the future.
Rhymes for Young Ghouls re-opens today in Toronto at the Cineplex at Yonge and Dundas and plays throughout the weekend into next week.
Toronto screening times Today: 1:50pm, 4:05, 6:20 and 8:35.
Following the 8:35 screening there will be a Q&A hosted by First Weekend Club and conducted by Anna Hardwick, followed by a casual cocktail/meet/greet at the Imperial Pub (54 Dundas St. E) with writer/director Jeff Barnaby, producer John Christou and actors Glen Gould, Brandon Oakes and Roseanne Supernault.
And don’t forget to ‘Like’ RFYG’s on Facebook!