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Blood Quantum is a zombie movie featuring Indigenous protagonists. // Prospector Films

Jeff Barnaby’s Blood Quantum centres Indigenous characters underrepresented in film

Blood Quantum
Directed by Jeff Barnaby; available across all digital platforms Tue., Apr. 28.

By Jordan Abel

In Blood Quantum, the latest film from Mi’kmaq director Jeff Barnaby, the world is overrun by zombies: The dead are coming back to life, and the only ones that seem to be immune are the Indigenous people living in the Red Crow reserve. 

While the film is being marketed as horror, Barnaby says that he understands Blood Quantum—and his previous critically acclaimed film Rhymes For Young Ghouls—as being genre-mashups instead. 

“I look at the horror beats in my films as being incidental to the story being told,” Barnaby says. “In this case, I was trying to retell the colonization story with the natives having the foreknowledge of the violence that was coming.”

For Barnaby, one of the main goals of the film was to reflect the world around him, and more specifically to present a portrait of Indigenous life as he saw it. 

Barnaby says that he simply “wanted to make a world where the natives that I grew around existed.” 

On the surface, Blood Quantum is very much about the zombie apocalypse, but according to Barnaby, it is also about centering Indigenous characters that he feels have been underrepresented in film.  

The director notes that he also makes these films in part to educate people about how the long history of injustice that Indigenous peoples have faced has impacted us. 

“The broken Indian that you see in front of you,” Barnaby says, “and the Residential School survivors and all the gruesome history of Indigenous peoples in North America—the end result is the broken Indian standing in front of you. You can’t just walk off a genocide.”

As Barnaby notes, one of the primary reasons why he made Rhymes For Young Ghouls is because “everyone thought Residential Schools were ancient history but the last one closed when the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was still on the air.”

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