Truth Unreconciled: Counter-Dreaming in Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls
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Renegotiating the terrain of the dream-image, as it is conceptualized by Gilles Deleuze in Cinema 2, this article examines how Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls troubles discourses of reconciliation through the circulation of unreconciled images. The dream becomes political, a contestation of colonial fictions that I call counter-dreaming.
Often categorized as revenge fantasy, Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013) offers far more than an unattainable fantasy for cathartic effect. As satisfying as it may be to watch the violent end met by Popper, an abusive Indian Agent tasked with overseeing the functioning of the residential school system, it is the very opposition that distributes reality and fantasy along such lines—recalcitrant reality/mere fantasy—that the film puts into crisis. Barnaby’s film might be said to respond emphatically in the affirmative to Gilles Deleuze’s query in Cinema 2: “are there not equal amounts of fantasy and dreaming in what we claim to see as there are of objective apprehending?” Over the course of Rhymes, it not only becomes increasingly evident that what passes for a shared objective reality is saturated by colonial fantasies but that resistance takes the form, not only of active contestations, but what I call counter-dreaming.
Set in 1976 on the Red Crow Mi’gMaq Reservation in Canada, the film tells the story of a young woman, Aila (Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs), whose struggle to survive the residential school system begins to threaten the underlying fantasies that sustain it. Aila’s rebellion cannot be reduced to a valiant but ultimately meagre reaction against the unjust system in which she finds herself caught. Instead, dream clashes with dream, as her ever more intersubjective fantasy begins to de-substantialize the imaginary structures, values, and subject positions available within the colonial framework. As the alternative form of life inherent in her fiction begins to encompass others in its turn, the reality that precludes it comes under threat. Popper reacts to Aila’s defiance with incommensurate violence because, as her fantasy begins to take hold, he becomes patently unsure of which version of reality he is operating in.
In Deleuze’s foundational account, the cinematic dream-image produces a circuit between reality and the dream. The terms of the two poles chase after one another, approaching a point of indiscernibility where the categories that would normally allow for a clear differentiation between what is real and what is dream no longer hold. In Barnaby’s film, however, it is not only a matter of such a slippage between the categories of “the real and the imaginary, the physical and the mental, the objective and the subjective, description and narration, the actual and the virtual...,” but a very real conflict over which dream reality will become entangled with. It is not only the ontological distinction between the actual and virtual, the dream and reality, that is at stake here, but a political distinction between the powers of the dream and the kind of dream that will ultimately seize hold of reality and enter into this circuit of entanglement with it. The question at the very heart of Barnaby's film seems to be: can the counter-dream wrest reality from the colonial fantasy?
The force of Barnaby’s reconfiguration of the distribution of reality and fantasy becomes particularly evident in light of the challenge that it poses to discourses of reconciliation. For the sake of contrast, let us begin by considering the framing of the same historical moment as it appears in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). In 2008, forced by the largest class-action lawsuit in Canadian history to address the legacy of the residential school system, the Canadian government established the TRC. Over the next seven years the Commission was tasked to “reveal to Canadians the complex truth about the history and the ongoing legacy of the church-run residential schools...and guide and inspire a process of truth and healing, leading toward reconciliation.” In 2015 the final report was published on the system that for over 100 years forcibly removed children from their homes in an attempt to coerce assimilation to the dominant Euro-Christian society. The report traces this history, it recounts the stories of some of the survivors, and it does not shy away from employing the language of “cultural genocide.” Nonetheless, the report ultimately frames an alternative between two ways of addressing the past: shame, from which it quickly distances itself (gently signaling implications of unhealthy emotional stagnation), or the seemingly benign language of mutual respect, which it keenly affirms.
Despite the momentous victory of Indigenous communities obtaining such a formalized acknowledgement of past wrongs and without wanting to minimize the importance of the call to action contained in the report, this framing remains troubling. What does it mean to immediately demand mutual respect following such disclosures? The underlying assumption seems to be that respect is at last to be extended to Indigenous communities, while the respect owed to Euro-Christian Canadian society is both presupposed and reaffirmed in this persistent refrain of mutuality. The rational dialogue between mutually respectful actors, feels particularly perilous when, for example, among the voices of the survivors, appears the exculpatory language of good “intent” deployed by Reverend Doug Crosby: “Recognizing that within every sincere apology there is implicit the promise of conversion to a new way of acting, we, the Oblates of Canada, wish to pledge ourselves to a renewed relationship with Native peoples which, while very much in line with the sincerity and intent of our past relationship, seeks to move beyond past mistakes to a new level of respect and mutuality.”  In this context, the affirmation of respect and mutuality implicitly demands recognition of the very institutions, culture, and concepts that were (and are) complicit in the oppression that the report denounces. Framed in this way, moving forward seems to entail a pragmatic attempt to look to the future, accompanied by a somewhat chastened promise to atone, if not materially (the government has repeatedly failed to enact the economic, environmental, and legal changes necessary for this) or even emotionally (after all why not be ashamed?), at least symbolically.
The opposition that the report structures, between the purportedly unproductive position of shaming and the prudent goal of mutual respect, is circumvented altogether by Barnaby’s film. In Rhymes, instead of uncovering the “true facts” of a past situation, such that reconciliation can take place moving forward, the persisting fantasy framework that justified that reality is uncovered and the film experiments with the most effective strategies for remaining perpetually unreconciled with it.
Understanding the residential school system as a past state of affairs, about which we can collect a certain amount of stable knowledge, relegates it safely to the past. The problematic nature of the TRC’s presumed ability to impartially uncover the truth, in order to determine the trajectory that ought to be taken moving forward, lies in the fact that the present becomes a neutral pivot between a future reconciliation and a past that remains firmly in the past. The insufficiency of such a position is particularly evident given the recent disclosures regarding the nonconsensual tubal ligations of Indigenous women and the persistently high rate of removal of Indigenous youths from their families that continue in Canada and are justified by a language of protection and betterment.
The dream, on the other hand, continues to contaminate the present. It is not a dream in the sense of being insubstantial or unactualized, nor is it the dream of an individual sleeper. The dream here describes a system of capture that encompasses a world, assuring a shared point of view from which the anamorphic image of a colonial reality appears to be normal and objectively true. It is this anamorphic effect that counter-dreaming puts into crisis. The dream becomes vulnerable to transformation when it is countered by an alternative point of view from which these distortions become apparent. As Barnaby’s film quickly makes evident, the colonial fantasies that pass for reality are set apart from other dreams only by their prodigious capacity to encompass an expansive territory. They do not have any privileged claim to reality and so, as the film begins to share in the perspective generated by Aila’s counter-dream, not only does the hallucinatory quality of the colonial logic become evident, but glimpses of another world begin to take shape.
The refusal to become reconciled with the persisting values and perspectives structured by a colonial fantasy takes a number of forms in Barnaby’s film. Rhymes for Young Ghouls does not treat the conditions of life on the reserve as an already defined problem awaiting its solution. It does not reduce Indigenous people to mere victims of a society that should now atone by allowing them to partake of what it imagines to be its benefits and pleasures. The film refuses to recuperate the community that it depicts according to the very values and modes of visibility that marginalize them, focusing instead on the unquestionable ferocity and aching vulnerability of its main character, as she and her young friends begin, in the face of extreme violence, to forge the means of escape and to map the coordinates of another possible world—a world that refuses the forms of legibility that would reconcile it with existing cultural fantasies.
Rules of the Dream
The intersubjective quality of such counter-dreaming is beautifully conveyed in Rhymes as the drawings from Aila’s sketchbook and her adoptive grandmother’s oral story begin to coalesce, taking hold of the film’s diegetic space and momentarily forcing it to pass into animation. The story tells of a wolf who hallucinates that the Mi’gmaq children are hanging from a tree. The wolf mistakes the children for mushrooms and eats them. Ashamed of what he has done the wolf looks around his world and doesn’t know what else to do, so he keeps eating. He eats his own tail. He eats his own stomach. He eats his heart and then he finishes eating himself.
The recounting of the wolf’s story and the film’s passage into animation constitute a pivotal point at which the tellers-of-tales begin to constitute themselves as a counterforce. They may still be obliged to inhabit the world that the wolf’s delusion grounds, but they have forged a new perspective from which to see its distortions. They are no longer dreaming alongside him, which is always the danger of those being dreamed; that they will embrace the delusions of the dreamer, giving in to his point of view.
Visually, the wolf is a composite of death, technology, and commerce, with a skull for a head and machinery and gears protruding from his back; the fantasy of progress exposed as a nightmare of mechanized violence. The story of the wolf becomes the story of a colonial fantasy seeking a territory upon which to take hold. The dream hunts.
The temporality evoked by the story is one of a post-apocalyptic modernity of wilting lampposts, sagging telephone wires, and decaying high-rises, which merges with the “once upon a time” of an origin story belonging to a distant past. This temporality reduplicates the time of the film itself. It too begins with a storyteller’s framing, as words written white on black appear silently: “The law in the Kingdom decreed that every child between the age of 5 and 16 who is physically able must attend Indian Residential School.” This is the unreconciled temporality of the dream, never simply here and now, and never safely in the past.
Already as a child, Aila realizes that waking up does not mean emerging from a nightmare but entering into one. The accidental death of a young boy, who is hit and killed when Aila’s inebriated mother lets Aila take the wheel of their car, precipitates a split from reality that will govern the rest of the film. Unable to bear the guilt of what has happened, Aila is forced to renegotiate her relationship to the world in which she finds herself. Rather than a story of acceptance, by which she might reconcile herself with her past and reengage with her present reality, the film accompanies Aila in her struggle to seize the governing reality from another perspective, to forge her very dislocation into a position from which to launch an attack. The personal and the social overlap as Aila’s inability to come to terms with her own past becomes a refusal of reconciliation with the colonial fantasy that passes for reality.
The morning after the tragic accident, Aila awakens to find her mother hanging from the rafters. “The day I found my mother dead,” she reflects, “I aged by a thousand years.” Aila quickly learns that, caught in the dream of another, time does not behave in predictable ways. “There are rules,” the young woman continues, “to surviving a thousand years in the kingdom of the crow.” Over the course of the film, her voiceover will gradually elaborate the following system: “Rule Number 1: never befriend an Indian Agent...Rule Number 2: stay out of debt...Rule Number 3: take care of your family...Rule Number 4: don’t act like a badass if you can’t fight,” and Rule Number 5, the final rule, “don’t show weakness or let your emotional barrier down.” These rules of the dream facilitate survival within its parameters, while simultaneously ensuring the survival of the dream itself. This is why eventually Aila will begin, not just to break the rules—putting herself at risk within the colonial imaginary—but to transform the very terms upon which the rules are structured, putting the dream itself at risk.
Rather than befriending the wrong person, she will redefine the nature of friendship. Rather than staying out of debt, she will reject the very structure of indebtedness. She neither plays by the rules of the dream that she is captured in, nor attempts to correct for its distortions by dosing it with objective reality (as is powerfully achieved by some of the well-known documentary films treating this historical moment in Canadian cinema). Instead, Aila begins to forge an escape, seeding a territory with a dream of her own.
The Art of Forgetfulness
How does one begin to escape the dream of another? It is not sufficient to be displaced from the perspective from which the anamorphic image of reality appears to be free of distortion and seamlessly enmeshed with objective reality. To perceive its nightmarish distortions does not in itself enable an extrication from it. While it is always possible, in Deleuze’s words, to “seiz[e] on other features and ha[ve] a different vision,” the very real dangers of being trapped in another’s dream make this far from an easy endeavor. The dream logic that has held for so long permeates, not only the perceptible world, but memory as well. The first stage of counter-dreaming, therefore, involves loosening the hold of the memories that render the perceptible world recognizable. Before intersubjective dreaming, there is emancipatory forgetting. Forgetting becomes a capacity, a power, an art. “This is what brings my people together,” Aila remarks, “the art of forgetfulness.”
Aila sells drugs to the senior members of her community in order to facilitate their quest for forgetfulness. The brutality of these scenes of the parties that the young girl hosts and profits from has garnered some critique from those who worry that Barnaby is merely perpetuating a cliché of drug and alcohol abuse in Indigenous communities. His own response has been to frame the scenes as part of what makes his heroine so compelling. Rather than offering recuperatory images of the community, he explores exactly what makes survival so difficult, so terrifying, and what makes an effective escape so nearly impossible. “My entire life,” Barnaby reflects, “I’ve wanted to tell a story about this kind of Indian. To have them encounter all the things that make living Indian ugly, and to represent all the things that make surviving it beautiful. I wanted to take all the violence, drunkenness, sadness and death and make a human hero.” The film makes evident the extent to which it is the cognitive dissonance produced by living in a world permeated by colonial distortions that provokes this anguished pursuit of forgetfulness.
While never explicitly addressing the political stakes of the dream-image, Deleuze himself appears to be aware of the danger of the dream and the near impossibility of an effective escape. He warns: “Beware of the dreams of others, because if you are caught in their dream you are done for...” To be captured in another’s dream is profoundly dangerous and to escape is extremely difficult. To fully extricate reality from its entanglement with the dominant dream is nearly impossible. Even painstakingly revealing all of the facts, injustices, contradictions and misrepresentations that permeate the colonial fantasy does not provoke a release of a kind of clarified reality from its entwinement with the dream. At the same time, however, if a dream can be dangerous then a counter-dream that is powerful enough can seize a territory and begin to capture others in its turn.
To escape is necessary. The escape made possible through drugs and alcohol is undoubtedly less effective as a counter measure than what Aila and her friends will attempt, but it is nonetheless a strategy for undermining the hold of the colonial dream. Donning a gas-mask, Aila arms herself against this form of forgetting. Behind her mask she retreats into her thoughts. Her inner voice overtakes the clamoring noise of the world, reminding the viewer that it is the art of forgetfulness that is at stake here.
This is the point at which another form of forgetfulness begins to take shape. A form that extends beyond an individual drive toward oblivion and begins to constitute a counter-dream. The camera shares Aila’s perspective, looking through her goggles on a world divided into two separate spheres, defying the stereoscopic coalescence of the colonial fiction. The viewer enters into a perspective from which the anamorphic effect of the colonial fantasy is no longer assured. The world is rent in two, undermining the habitual configuration of perception, in order for an alternative to begin to take shape. Forgetting in either guise is a refusal to share in the perspective of the colonial dream, one is dangerously self-destructive, while the other is emancipatory, but both retain the dignity of a refusal to dream alongside the colonizer, to value “sobriety,” “morality,” and “remembrance” as he does, and always for his benefit.
Victim of the Other’s Dream
The film thus structures a contrast between the world as it arrays itself according to two conflicting points of view. Popper, the Indian Agent, is the principal representative of the colonial perspective. He oversees a world organized in such a way as to be perpetually vulnerable to his violence. He bribes and steals and beats according to laws that empower him to do so. The law is applied unevenly, so as to enrich him, reward those who embrace the rules of the colonial dreamscape and punish those who resist the misshapen image that the colonial perspective imposes on them.
The second perspective, belonging almost exclusively to women, youth, and the dead, on the other hand, is inherently intersubjective. It is not codified, but narrativized. Aila’s sketchbook and the old woman’s story are only one instance of the visual and oral storytelling through which this perspective is elaborated. It also takes shape through performance, painting, graffiti, and graphic arts. This perspective takes shape in-between, between artistic forms, between people, between life and death, between wakefulness and dreaming, between past and future. Aila is repeatedly shown sleeping and waking, but not in order to safely bracket her dreams, relegating them to the realm of the unreal, but to show the extent to which the two states overlap. The dead and the zombies of her dreams appear repeatedly in her waking life. Dream and life are not only equally vivid; they have an equally powerful grip on the actual.
While the colonial dream is characterized by an anamorphic perspective, Aila’s dreaming produces something more like the parallax effect that Corinn Columpar speaks of in her book The Fourth World on Film. Citing the anthropological work of Faye Ginsburg, Columpar compares her approach to Indigenous film as embracing “the illusory perception of displacement of an object observed due to a change in the position of the observer...” Moving between insider and outsider, as well as different national perspectives, Columpar’s object of study shifts and is complicated and nuanced in relation to a mobile observer. Similarly, Aila’s parallax vision insists on a perpetual displacement.
The intersubjective displacement characteristic of this new form of dreaming is particularly evident in the doubling of Aila throughout the film. She is doubled by her dead mother, by the old woman who supplies her with drugs, and by the ancient woman that she herself becomes, having survived 1000 years in the Kingdom of the Crow. At one point Aila slides the mask of an old woman around to the back of her head becoming the two-faced embodiment of this flickering perspective. The old woman facing backward—aged a thousand years by the colonial nightmare—is doubled by her own face: the dreamer who will challenge it. Aila is a point of ramification between series, the colonial distortion and a new dream. The two series meet in her without ever becoming reconciled.
As the film progresses the clash between these two dream logics plays out in the very fabric of the perceptible world. The entanglement of dream and reality means that as one dream gains ascendency the world itself and its inhabitants manifest otherwise. Aila’s dead mother, for example, reappears at times as a decaying corpse, at times restored to herself, depending on the perspective that dominates: the colonist’s or the girl’s. Similarly, when Aila’s friends arrive to save her from the residential school, they don masks and costumes in a performative act of defiance. As the scene progresses the film begins to reframe their childish skeleton and bear costumes as the garb of warriors. It becomes clear the extent to which they have seized on the distorted images of themselves as “uncivilized” or as the “decaying remainders of an already dead culture,” in order to valorize a configuration of dream and reality in which they are instead the fearsome recreators of a new world.
At another moment, Aila scratches images of previously incarcerated children into the wall of her cell, conjuring allies from beyond the grave. The long-dead young boy emerges from the wall. He is at once the expression of Aila’s inability to bind her personal trauma and the ambulatory embodiment of an unreconciled image, a recalcitrant remainder disrupting the territory of the colonial dream. He guides her through the forest, revealing a mass-grave of disappeared children. This grave is not “real,” but it is the truth that counters the colonial fiction that the children are being removed from their homes in order to civilize and educate them. It is not education but genocide that is taking place, as the small zombie boy reveals through the nightmare visions that he generates. The distorted perspective in which the living dead are the stuff of nightmares, is countered as the zombies, corpses, and ghosts emancipate themselves from the colonial logic and begin to form a virtual community. The “vanishing Indian,” a figure already portrayed by white settlers as under threat of imminent disappearance at the moment of first contact proves impossibly resilient. The refusal to vanish is one of the great powers of the new dream.
The flickering between habitual forms of recognition and this new way of seeing that emerges as the two dreams clash does not threaten the parallax perspective as profoundly as it does the anamorphic colonial point of view precisely because Aila’s dream already allows for displacement. The anamorphic effect of the colonial dream cannot withstand even the slightest shift in perspective without its distortions becoming evident and its sole claim to reality being undermined. While Popper attempts to vigilantly enforce the colonial perspective, he is up against a more powerful dreamer. Aila as an enemy is weak. She is vulnerable and has very little means of defense, let along aggression, but her dreams are powerful and, as Deleuze reminds us, “as soon as someone else dreams, there is danger...Even the most graceful young woman is a horrific ravager, not because of her soul, but because of her dreams.”
In the dreamscape in which the battle over perspective is fought, Aila is no longer the weak one. She redefines the terms of Rule Number 4: “don’t act like a badass if you can’t fight.” In the confrontation between two dreams, two possible worlds, it is not the strength to fight, but the power to dream that makes the young girl a fearsome enemy. The violence of Popper’s final attack and attempted rape is a response to the power of Aila’s dream, which threatens the stability not only of his point of view, but the world that it assures.
Rather than attempting to put the world right, Aila embraces the hallucinatory quality of this intermixing of dream and reality. It is not a question of waking up or of uncovering the truth that the colonial perspective warps. Aila and her allies do not offer a corrective to the colonial distortions. They do not seek to enter into a mutually-constituted world with the colonists, as Jacques Rancière proposes when he speaks of the excluded forcing themselves into visibility and audibility and thereby transforming the perceptible fabric of a shared world. Instead, they begin to dream, leveraging the shadows against those who wish to control and survey them. Rather than reconstituting truth, understood as “the immaterial illumination lighting the perceptible world,” as Rancière would have them attempt, these children happily remain in the shadows. As Aila’s adoptive grandmother observes, “the sun is always down, and I like the dark.” It is not in the revelatory light of the truth, but in the dream that they find their most effective weapon. Aila and her friends do not strive to restructure reality so as to force it to accommodate them, making themselves the equals of those who denigrate them. Rather they begin to contaminate the dominant society with a new fantasy, to make its legislators and enforcers the victims of their new dream.
Temptation of a New Dream
The film depicts the small community of rebels that Aila gathers around her in such a way that they continuously evade and refuse the values, identities, and sensibility imposed by the existing political landscape. Her revaluation of the rules of survival in the Kingdom of the Crow is not limited to Rule #4 which redefines strength but extends to the other rules as well. Rule # 1 may state, “Never befriend an Indian agent,” but it is friendship itself that is redefined: without obligation, or fusion, without blame or respectability. In her little community there is no sense of betrayal, for example, when one of Aila’s allies gives Popper information or another loses her money by saying too much when drunk. The question is not of punishment or judgment but merely what is to be done next. Friendship, as she reinvents it, concerns only the powers of coming together in order to produce effects in a world that violently curtails their mutual possibilities. Her attitude towards her friends is free of any recriminations, there is nothing owed. What is given is given freely, as when they risk their own freedom in order to break her out of the school.
Similarly, the ethos that governs Rule # 2 is overturned. Speaking of Rule #2 Aila states, “Stay out of debt. Indians can’t understand debt, don’t get money. Indian agents don’t speak Indian. They speak money. They speak it with their boots. They speak it with their fists. They speak it with their blood and bats.” Just as the children in the residential school are instructed to “speak the Queen’s goddamn English,” Aila’s community members are supposed to acquire this language of money. But this economic lingualism presupposes an enmeshment of violence and indebtedness that Aila refuses outright.
Unlike the usual heist films, embedded fully within the language of money, the loot that these children acquire in their rebellion leaves them mostly indifferent. They split up the money and wonder idly what to do next. They do not covet what the society that oppresses them refuses to allow them to partake in. As Jack Halberstam writes of political transformation, it is necessary to “refuse that which was first refused to us and in this refusal reshape desire, reorient hope, reimagine possibility and do so separate from the fantasies nestled into rights and respectability.” This is precisely the task of counter-dreaming. They do not share in the dream of riches or property, of seizing power over other indebted subjects who would owe them in their turn.
Aila’s only response to their desire to know what comes next is “we run, we fucking run” and by this she does not only mean that they flee Popper’s retribution but that they remain in movement, never settling into the world that tries to shape them to its form. They do not want to seize power, but only to escape those whose desire operates in this distorted way. As Fred Moten and Stefano Harney so aptly phrases it, “some people want to run things, other things want to run.” Rather than understanding her community in light of its supposed failure in the apprenticeship of “speaking money,” in the world that begins to take shape between Aila and her allies, it is no longer a question of getting into debt or out of it, but of abolishing debt altogether.
It becomes evident, therefore, the extent to which, rather than seeking visibility and audibility within the society that marginalizes them, these children engage in a double disidentification, first with the misrepresentations of themselves offered up by the colonial perspective and second with the idealized images that the dominant culture projects of itself. Barnaby’s film does not offer recuperative images, but rather redefines failure, work refusal, disloyalty, examining the extent to which the world can be seized from another angle. It is not a corrective image that his film offers, but a new dream. There is a subversive pleasure that Barnaby’s film takes in not educating its viewer, not correcting their vision, but rather immersing them in the unrecognizable dreamscape of his young heroine, which redraws the lines of reality and fantasy along a different circuit.
The dream-image intervenes, Deleuze tells us, between perception and action. For Deleuze this means that it can be a way to momentarily suspend sensory-motor extension, but when conceived instead as counter-dreaming, it becomes a means of dislocating the privileged perspective of an anamorphic world; in short the rules of the dream are reinvented such that a new landscape of the possible begins to emerge. At a moment when the nightmarish quality of reality is increasingly echoed in tones of outrage, disbelief, and cynical resignation, the concept of counter-dreaming offers an alternative to endlessly correcting the distortions of a corrupted vision of the world, in favor of wresting reality from the nightmare by pursuing far more appealing, more egalitarian entanglements between dream and reality.
While discourses of colonial atonement tend to remain within the confines of the old dream, in Barnaby’s film, the unreconciled images circulating within the territory of the reservation indicate the extent to which what is at stake is not achieving inclusion within the dominant society, but the temptation of another form of life and with it the possibility, not of mutual respect, but of desertion in favor of a new dream. The film ends with a young boy asking Aila, “what do we do next boss? And with the slightest suggestion of a smile, the young girl leans back and closes her eyes.
Caitlyn Doyle is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Northwestern University. Her specialties include film, critical theory, and 20th century French literature. Her current book project, Dream-Image, examines film’s ability to contest the existing entanglements between dream and reality in favor of a new configuration—a counter-dream.
Jeff Barnaby, Rhymes for Young Ghouls (Montreal: Prospector Films, 2013).
Sean Carleton, “On violence and vengeance: Rhymes for Young Ghouls and the horrific history of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, October 24, 2014.
Kristy Kirkup, “Indigenous women coerced into sterilizations across Canada,” CBC News, November 12, 2018.
This female line of transmission is key to Barnaby’s rejection of the existing representations of Native people and Native women in particular. “All the cinematic native heroes that I’ve encountered in my life up to this point,” he writes, “have worn buckskin, have been men, and were more often than not, not actually native. The real heroes I’ve encountered in my life, growing up on the reserve, have been women and every inch of them Indian” (Barnaby, “Director’s Statement”). Barnaby’s film is an important counter to the “stereotypes of Indian women and/or the absence of Native women in both Indian and non-Indian film...” flagged by Lee Schweninger (Imagic Moments: Indigenous North American Film [Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2013], 18).