This episode concludes our two part discussion of contemporary Indigenous young adult films, including Rustic Oracle and The Grizzlies. We discuss some of the best Indigenous YA films from the recent past, think about the difference between films made by Indigenous and settler filmmakers, and outline the genre’s defining traits. Listen to Indigenous YA Part 1 here.
This episode features Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney, Associate Editor Brett Pardy, and special guests Joe Lipsett and Lindsay Pugh
Rhymes for Young Ghouls (Jeff Barnaby, 2013)
Mi’gmaq director Jeff Barnaby’s debut feature uses the language of various film genres to convey the real life horrors of Canada’s Residential Schools. Set in 1976, teenager Aila (Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs) deals drugs so she can bribe Indian Agent Popper (Mark Antony Krupa) to avoid being sent to Residential School. When Aila’s money is stolen and her father returns from prison, tensions between Popper and the family intensify into a violent cycle of revenge.
Rhymes For Young Ghouls is available on VOD and to stream on: Crave (CA), Kanopy (CA, US, AU), CBC Gem (CA), Hoopla (CA, US), and Fandor (CA, US).
Tia and Piujuk (Lucy Tulugarjuk, 2018)
10 year old Syrian refugee Tia lives in Montreal. One day she finds a magic portal to the Arctic, where she meets Piujuq (Nuvvija Tulugarjuk) and the two girls have adventures in the world of Inuit myth.
Tia and Piujuk is available to rent on iTunes worldwide and to stream on Crave (CA).
Rustic Oracle (Sonia Bonspille Boileau, 2019)
In the late 1980s, teenager Heather (McKenzie Deer Robinson) goes missing. 8 year old Ivy (Lake Delisle) and her mother, Susan (Carmen Moore) search across Quebec for her. They begin to unravel the mystery despite a lack of support from the police and social supports.
Rustic Oracle will be released on VOD in Canada on November 17.
Kuessipan (Myriam Verreault, 2019)
Mikuan (a stunning lead performance from Sharon Ishpatao Fontaine) is such a compelling character because there’s so much to her: witty, stubborn, loyal, sharply intelligent yet still a naïve and idealistic sixteen-year-old. Kuessipan’s heart is in Mikuan’s relationship with her best friend, Shaniss (Yamie Grégoire). The two of them grew up together in a Quebec Innu reserve; from a young age, they swore to always stick together. Mikuan’s desire to leave the reserve to study in the city, her burgeoning relationship with a white boy, and the stress Shaniss is under as a new mother in an abusive relationship, test the two girls’ bond more than ever before – Orla Smith
Kuessipan is available to rent on iTunes and Vimeo in Canada.
The Grizzlies (Miranda de Pencier, 2019)
The Grizzlies deliberately follows a familiar narrative of Sports Movies meets To Sir with Love: a teacher comes into a troubled community and helps the kids find a reason to live and look ahead. But unlike most of these ‘inspirational’ stories, from Dead Poets Society to Bad News Bears, de Pencier employs this familiar narrative with the intent to subvert it. When white settler Russ Shepard (the always excellent Ben Schnetzer, with an impressive Canadian accent) gets a teaching position in Kugluktuk, a remote Inuit community plagued with teenage suicides, he is keen to do something to help. So he starts a lacrosse team — a sport that, importantly, has roots in another Canadian Indigenous peoples. But Russ quickly discovers that the only way to succeed is to centre the teenagers he’s trying to help, and be prepared to listen rather than teach: learn and follow their rituals and empower them to call the shots.
The result is intensely watchable and deliberately commercial.The grit and spirit of the Inuit teenagers is invigorating and centred as much as possible, given the film’s narrative constraints. Miranda (Emerald MacDonald) is the heart of the film, the smartest girl in the class who is patient enough with Russ to give him the advice he needs. Kyle (Booboo Stewart) is a quiet and compassionate boy who can run like the wind, but struggles with an abusive father he feels compelled to forgive, knowing his father suffered abuse as a child in a residential school. And Adam (Ricky Marty-Pahtaykan) who becomes one of the team’s star players, had previously stopped attending school altogether so that he could hunt and live the old ways with his grandparents – Alex Heeney
The Grizzlies is available on VOD in Canada and the US, and to stream on Crave (CA) and Hoopla (CA).
- Listen to Part One on Indigenous YA
- Listen to our episode on Jeff Barnaby’s films Rhymes for Young Ghouls and Blood Quantum
- Read Alex’s interview with Jeff Barnaby about Blood Quantum
- Rhymes for Young Ghouls ranked 7th on our best of the decade list. See why and view the other choices.
- Check out our Best Canadian Film of the Decade Survey, where Brett picked Rhymes for Young Ghouls
- Read Orla’s interview with Kuessipan director Myriam Verreault and co-writer Noami Fontaine
- Read Alex’s interview with The Grizzlies director Miranda de Pencier and Inuk producer Alethea Araquq-Baril
- Listen to Joe’s appearance on our episode on Canadian YA
- Visit Lindsay’s website Woman in Revolt
- Listen to Joe and Brenna Clarke Gray’s podcast on YA literature and film adaptations, Harry & Katniss & Hazel & Starr
- The academic article Brett refers to is Kristen Gilchrist, (2010). “Newsworthy” victims?: Exploring differences in canadian local press coverage of missing/murdered aboriginal and white women. Feminist Media Studies, 10(4), 373-390.
- Purchase our 2019 Canadian Cinema Yearbook, which includes a section on Indigenous cinema