The Toronto International Film Festival's 2019 slate of Midnight Madness films - the edgier and darker of the festival fare - launched with the premiere of the Canadian social justice horror Blood Quantum Thursday night.
The film envisions a future where the people of a Mi'gmaq reserve are immune to a worldwide zombie plague, and have to decide whether to invite outsiders in to escape it.
On the red carpet, director Jeff Barnaby and cast told Showbiz Monkeys how they hope audiences react to the film, and how Indigenous culture heightens the story.
Stonehorse Lone Goeman, "Gisigu"
"Natives are the only one that aren't infected with this virus, so all the non-Indians have to be put on reservations of sorts, away from us. Even though we have the chance to kill everyone who's not an Indian, are we going to become what was never the Native way? Even today, we still spread a blanket and say to people 'you need a place to sit down, you need a place to rest.' We've never given up that part of our culture."
Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, "Joss"
"I hope Canadian audiences walk away with the understanding that what we're witnessing on screen is rooted in reality in many ways. Indiginous people live with systemic violence on a daily basis, and many of the themes within the are building on this legacy of colonialism that we're all living with."
Jeff Barnaby, Writer/Director
"Once you put a Native person on screen, it's going to take a political stance. I tried to let that be. I tried to just let it exist in the writing, without trying to flex too hard or wag a finger or preach to anybody. For me, it was a matter of making a good zombie film first, and represent it the way I saw it through my background's eyes."
Michael Greyeyes, "Traylor"
"I think it normalizes our place in worldwide cinema. Romantic comedy, sci-fi, horror, these are all genres that we like to watch. Our presence in these films is rare. So I think when we do a film like this it's beautiful to see it populated with people who look like us."
Quotes have been condensed.
Sharilyn has written on comedy, television, and film for publications such as The Toronto Star, The A.V. Club, and Vanity Fair, as well as on CBC Radio. You can follow her on Twitter at @sharilynj.