Indigenous Canadian Cinemas: Negotiating the Precarious
Part of what is at stake in the struggle to represent Canada cinematically is representing the First Nations, people whose subjectivities and very lives have been rendered precarious through the violent colonialism of the Indian Act and the attendant racializing discourse of white invader-settler cinema. If the Canadian industry as a whole might be read through the vector of the precarious, certainly Indigenous cinemas remain, despite the international festival successes of Mohawk director Alanis Obomsawin and Inuit director Zacharias Kunuk, challenging to fund and distribute. After elucidating the industrial precariousness of Canadian cinemas in general, the paper focuses on Indigenous people’s cinematic production. Informed by Judith Butler’s understanding of the precarious life of the Other (Butler 2003), as the concept emerges from Emanuel Levinas’s ethics, the chapter offers a case study of a recent and rare First Nations’ fiction feature, Rhymes for Young Ghouls (Jeff Barnaby 2013). Barnaby’s horror cum revenge drama is a decolonizing film re-presenting the psychic and physical violence visited upon the Mi’gmaq through the colonialism of the Residential School System, a nationwide education program for First Nations children that came on line in the 1880s to “kill the Indian in the child.” All too frequently, as Barnaby’s film witnesses, it killed the child.
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