Rhymes for Young Ghouls is the story of Aila, a 13-year-old Native Canadian, who lives on a reserve with her uncle, a drug dealer. Aila’s got problems. Her father is being released from jail, she’s lost the money she needs to pay for her uncle’s product and the Native police have come by looking for trouble. Now she must find a way to help her father acclimate to being home, steal back the money she needs and find a way to get back at the cop who has it out for her family.

This is director Jeff Barnaby’s first feature, and it does show a little around the edges. Despite this, the script, also written by Barnaby, does some wonderful things, such as looking at the effects of the residential schools and lack of jobs on the Native community, as well as creating a strong female lead with positive qualities. His uses of visual collage, music and tableau create a visceral relationship with the viewer, engaging them on a level few first-time filmmakers are capable of.

It is important to note that much of this film is intended to be funny, even though the subject matter – like tweens drinking beer first thing in the morning to cure their hangovers – makes it seem as if it shouldn’t be alright to laugh. The humour isn’t overt and it certainly isn’t traditional, but the funniest moments in the film are the most natural, and also the most real.