Rhymes for Young Ghouls is for Indigenous people, what Inglorious Basterds is for the Jewish community. It is a grisly residential school revenge-film and also happened to be my first leading role. I have an immense amount of love and respect for Jeff [Barnaby, the writer/director] and the entire team behind Rhymes, but besides that, it is a beautiful, haunting story that explores love through sacrifice against the violent backdrop of residential schools.
Since “residential school revenge movie” isn’t a genre yet, the debut feature film from Jeff Barnaby can best be described as a drama about one family’s attempt to move on from the horrors of abuse.
St. Dymphna is the residential school towering in the distance over the fictional Mi’kmaq community of the Red Crow First Nation, in 1976. In the school’s shadow lives Aila (Kawennáhere Jacobs), a teenaged girl who has taken on the family’s drug business. She’s grown up under the wing of her uncle, after her father Joseph (Glen Gould) went to jail for the accidental death of Aila’s little brother. Everyone in Red Crow has been self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, since many have been abused at St. Dymphna’s, and making money off of them is the only way to keep Aila out of the school.
She’s paying off Popper (Mark Antony Krupa), the sadistic Indian Agent who runs the residential school, and when that money gets stolen, Aila and her friends plan a retaliation.
Through it all, hope lies in Aila, the teenaged girl with two braids, leather hood and gas mask – truly the coolest a teenaged protagonist has ever looked – to break the cycle, grit her teeth, and move forward.
Review by Kelly Boutsalis
Glen Gould, Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, Mark Antony Krupa