Rhymes for Young Ghouls


Action / Crime / Drama

IMDb Rating 6.5 10 801


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by ReganRebecca 8 / 10

Excellent heist film

Director/write Jeff Barnaby just kills it in his first feature length movie. Set on a Canadian reservation in the 70s the film follows Aila (Devery Jacobs who is astonishing). After a tragic accident involving her little brother Aila is left essentially parentless. By the time she's 15 she's dealing drugs, though she wears as gas mask to ensure she doesn't get high while she deals. The weed also serves another purpose; to keep from being carted off to a residential school run by priests where abuse is high, Aila pays a fee so that the white cops will ignore her presence.

The movie follows many twists and turns but eventually turns into a heist film. But what a great one it is! The performances are all great but Devery Jacobs turns out to be the real find of the movie. She is astonishing as Aila, a small kid who has been almost completely hardened after being left to fend for herself.

The cinematography by Michel St. Martin is a stunner. Not to spoil anything but there is a fight scene on the beach that is equal parts beauty and gore.

Do yourself a favour and watch this film.

Reviewed by BigLaxFan94 8 / 10

First time I ever saw a Native film with Mi'kmaq dialogue.

A good film where Mi'kmaq is spoken in it. However this delves into the horrors and abuses Native kids were forced to endure at the residential schools (aka death camps). This film depicted a more radical form of the abuse those poor kids had to go through. I guess it seemed more radical to me since the music that accompanied the film made it appear that way. But nonetheless this one showed the abuses the kids went through similar to some other Native films depict.

The scene at the beach where Glen Gould's character and her daughter were kidnapped and taken hostage by the residential school staff, the Indian Agent and RCMP: although it was a film, I was still disgusted at how they all took turns in beating him and his daughter up like that! The daughter was not under 18 so she should not have been sent away to the damn school. As for her father, it was insane how they took him, tied him up to a chair and beat him mercilessly literally for nothing! At the beach they told him he "wasn't supposed to go out onto the water". I don't know WHY he wasn't supposed to do that but they "charged" him for doing that.

Anyways... I give this film an 8 out of 10.

Reviewed by meddlecore 8 / 10

Residential School Revenge With A Modern Vibe!

Rhymes For Young Ghouls is a tale of revenge set within the context of Canada's Residential School era- during which older generations of Indians faced systematic oppression from the state, stemming from policies that was effectively genocidal. Today's indigenous communities are still reeling from the effects of such policies (one of which is cited in the opening of the film) today.

Their collective experience is summed up in a quote made by the film's main character- Aila- who says, "This is what brings my people together...the art of forgetfulness," when speaking about the tendency for members of their community to become reliant upon drugs and alcohol as an escape from the traumatic memories that were consequential of white subjugation. A theme that is confronted throughout the film.

Rhymes For Young Ghouls is Mi'kmaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby's freshman feature (having two short films already to his credit)- and he's done a damn fine job with it. On top of writing and directing this emotional roller-coaster, he also recorded the original score himself (playing a number of instruments in the process). His talents are clearly multifaceted.

The film tells the story of an extended M'ikmaq family, from the Red Crow Rez, who are persistently harassed by a sadistically racist Indian Agent named Popper (Mark Krupa). The Father is played by Glen Gould, the uncle is played by Brandon Oakes, and the main character, Aila, is played by the truly stunning Devery Jacobs (who was looking drop dead sexy in her dress at TIFF).

It all begins when Aila's brother is accidentally killed during a drunk driving incident. Feeling responsible, Aila's mother is unable to cope with the grief and ends up committing suicide. Her father is then arrested for the murder, and a 10-year old Aila is left to fend for herself.

The film then fast forwards to Aila's teenage years. She is no longer a little girl. Rather, the head of a relatively successful drug dealing operation. Aila runs and organizes everything: buying weed from the town's old woman, employing her friends to make the deals, and making sure the "truancy taxes" are paid off to the Indian Agents each month. If these truancy taxes are not paid accordingly, the kids will find themselves "disappeared" into the Residential School system.

Aila and her friends are constantly under the watchful eye of Popper, a racist Indian Agent who exploits every given oppourtunity to violently beat and extort them. In the Q&A Krupa said he based the Popper character off of Ude from Schindler's List...but he's more reminiscent of Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet, if you ask me. Really over the top, in a dramatically sadistic sense.

Popper is always using COINTELPRO tactics against the Native community in an attempt to turn them against one another. The plot derives from an incident where Popper robs and beats a boy named Milch- one of the local kids that works for Aila. He seizes all of Milch's dope and money- the money they need to re-up and pay off their truancy taxes.

Popper's hatred of Aila hearkens back to his relationship with her father, Joseph. Popper and Joseph went to Residential School together. There was an instance where Popper was getting picked on by two of the other students, before Joseph intervened and knocked the kids out. Despite saving him, Joseph was set to be punished by the Priest- and Popper was tasked with carrying out the actual beating. And ever since...he's seemed to have it out for Joseph.

Following the incident with Milch, Aila- with help from her little buddy on the inside- develops a plan to break into the school, steal their money back, and reap vengeance on Popper- who really deserves his comeuppance after stomping her face.

However, before the crew gets the chance to put their plan into action, Joseph is released from jail. Which triggers a number of bizarre occurrences- including the return of Aila's zombie mother and brother (meant to leave you reflecting on the post-colonial Native American experience). This culminates with Joseph being beaten and re-arrested- for taking a boat out on the water during a ban- and Aila being thrown into the Residential School system.

Lucky for her, her little buddy helps her escape- and the crew are able to put their plan into action. After smoking a joint first, of course.

Dawned in masks the group break into the school, seek to free Aila's dad, and pull off their hilarious revenge plot directed at Popper.

But the obsessive psychopath that he is, Popper isn't able to laugh it off. Instead, he comes back for them wielding a shotgun, hellbent on raping Aila. I won't reveal how it all goes down, but I will say that the film has an explosive conclusion which had the audience cheering at the TIFF screening I attended.

The film provides commentary on a number of social issues that currently affect our Native communities: such as alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, suicide, and the reeling effects stemming from the destruction of their culture. Though, it does seem to lay the blame for many of these problems- at least partially- at the feet of both parties (if I read it correctly).

When all is said and done, Rhymes For Young Ghouls is a really excellent film. It's funny, stylish and exciting, yet utterly disturbing and really sad at parts. Barnaby has managed to fashion a story that is set 50-60 years ago with a modern vibe that will appeal to mainstream audiences. I really feel that this film can be enjoyed by a diverse crowd of people, if given a chance. It would be nice to see it get distribution into some Canadian theatres. Highly recommended! 7.5 out 10.

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