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Blood Quantum is a zombie movie with First Nations politics on the brain, says Chris Knight – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Canada has always had a thing for zombies. George A. Romero, godfather of the dead, spent his last years in this, his adopted country. CanCon icon Sarah Polley starred in the

Dawn of the Dead

remake. And local filmmakers have put their unique stamp on the genre, including the excellent French-language

Les Affamés

(

Ravenous

) from 2017, and Bruce McDonald’s 2008 horror, the hilariously bilingual

Pontypool

.

Add to that list writer/director Jeff Barnaby’s

Blood Quantum

, which imagines the nation in the grip of a pandemic that turns its victims into flesh-eating zombies, dubbed “zeds” by those who know how that letter is supposedly to be pronounced. But there’s a twist. First Nations residents on the Red Crow Mi’gmaq reserve are immune to the disease.

It’s a clever reversal from the filmmaker, who was born in Listuguj, the Quebec reserve that doubles as Red Crow in the film. The First Nations of North America suffered a heavy burden from the diseases of early European settlers. Why wouldn’t the land exact retribution? Though as one character asks darkly: “Who says we’re immune? Maybe the Earth just forgot about us.”

Whatever the reason, things get off to a jumpy start when an old man is gutting his fishing catch and is startled to find them still flailing around. But from undead salmon – which really can’t do much except freak people out at dinner – the horror ratchets up quickly.

Who says we’re immune? Maybe the Earth just forgot about us.

Overworked local police chief Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) gets a call from a man whose non-Indigenous wife turned on him in the midst of giving birth. This doesn’t bode well for his son Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) and the young man’s pregnant white girlfriend Charlie, played by Olivia Scriven.

Barnaby is a filmmaker who excels at injecting politics into his films without making them any less entertaining. Just look at his last feature, 2013’s

Rhymes for Young Ghouls

, a revenge fantasy thriller that asks some uncomfortable questions about the legacy of the residential school system in Canada.


Blood Quantum

is full of dark and clever references, some more obvious than others. The action takes place in 1981, the same year that Listuguj was raided by Quebec police over issues of salmon fishing rights. And when an uninfected white refugee is let into the reservation he is told not to leave his blanket outside, lest it carry the zed contagion; the parallel to smallpox is clear.

An unintentional real-life analogy comes when the Red Crow residents construct a barricade on the bridge between the reservation and the nearby community to keep out the infected “townies.” These days, First Nations have erected barricades not as a form of political protest but to try to keep COVID-19 outside their borders.

But you don’t need to watch this movie as some sort of settler thesis.

Blood Quantum

is a thrilling, bloody zombie story with nods to Romero’s genre-defining work, and to Quentin Tarantino, not to mention some beautiful, brief forays into graphic-novel territory. And the family dynamics among Traylor, ex-wife Joss (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) and their other son Lysol (Kiowa Gordon) means there’s more for viewers to hold onto than just wondering who will be the next victim.

But let’s be fair; that’s always fun too. And it’s fascinating to watch the residents of Red Crow grappling with their situation, figuring out how to survive. In one scene they discuss the pros and cons of living off the land. Moose and deer are deemed OK to eat, but the elders warn people to stay away from the fish. No one wants to eat a meal that bites back.


Blood Quantum is available to rent or own across all on-demand and digital platforms on April 28.


4 stars out of 5

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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A Guide to the Economics and Politics of the Coronavirus Recovery – The New Yorker

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Photograph by Marco Bello / Reuters

Just a month ago, experts were predicting that the American economy would be slow to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment remains at record highs, but, as the country begins to reopen, federal policies that have bolstered small businesses and bailed out big ones seem to have helped avoid another Great Depression. John Cassidy joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how good news about the economy complicates Joe Biden’s campaign against Donald Trump.

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Keep Politics Out of Reopening Houses of Worship – The New York Times

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Credit…Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “Firing Salvo in Culture Wars, Trump Wants Churches Open” (front page, May 23):

Last Friday was not the first time we have witnessed a politician attempting to ingratiate himself with faith communities. Through the years, leaders from both major political parties have sought the support of houses of worship in their electoral campaigns.

Certainly those of us who devote our lives to religious leadership would like to consider our work “essential.” And we eagerly await the day when we can welcome our congregants back to their spiritual homes. While we can pray to God anywhere at any time alone or with others, and while the internet has provided a viable and meaningful vehicle for gathering our members in this time of physical distancing, nothing could ever replace the power of in-person congregational worship.

But religious communities must not become political pawns for a president seeking to placate his evangelical base. In Judaism, the saving of life supersedes all other religious responsibilities. The decision whether or not to reopen houses of worship belongs in the hands of local authorities alone, guided by health concerns, not political ones.

Joshua M. Davidson
New York
The writer is the senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El.

To the Editor:

The cynicism of President Trump’s call to governors to open the churches is staggering. I am a Catholic who attends Mass every day. I have always loved the ritual of the Mass, and I rejoice and celebrate as I gather with friends old and new who enrich my life. I will return joyfully to my church when our governor deems it safe to do so, not when it is politically expedient for our president.

John T. Dillon
West Caldwell, N.J.

To the Editor:

President Trump asks all governors to immediately open up churches and allow in-person worship — without testing. Yet everyone who meets with Mr. Trump must first be tested.

So, what’s good for the gander ain’t good for the goose. If he truly believes that in-person worship is safe, let’s see him go to these churches (or restaurants or theaters) without testing — and let’s see him mingle with the folks not wearing masks.

Marc R. Stanley
Dallas

Credit…From left: Zack DeZon for The New York Times; Andrew Seng for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Star of the City Sells Itself,” by Michael Kimmelman (Critic’s Notebook, Arts pages, May 7):

OK, the Brooklyn Bridge is wholly in New York City and joins two of its boroughs. And it was something of an engineering achievement. Book after book has been written about it; it appears in a wealth of movies.

But the great bridge in the New York area is the George Washington.

When I sought to read a book on the George, I discovered that there were none. Participating in a symposium at Columbia University on American icons, and listening to others drone on about the Brooklyn, I asked “What about the George?” There was complete silence. Then one participant said, to almost universal laughter, “But look where it goes,” the suggestion being that since the George crosses to New Jersey, it couldn’t possibly be important.

The George is also the gateway to Interstate 80, on which one may travel in a straight line to San Francisco. New Yorkers think of themselves as sophisticated compared with New Jerseyans, but they can often be decidedly parochial.

Michael Aaron Rockland
Morristown, N.J.
The writer is the author of “The George Washington Bridge: Poetry in Steel” and a professor of American studies at Rutgers.

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Face masks now define a divided America and its politics – The Globe and Mail

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A man wearing a face mask walks past signs for Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, in Alexandria, Va., on May 11, 2020.

OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. election of 1860 was fought over the future of slavery in the United States. The 1932 election over how to respond to the Great Depression. The 1980 election over the role of government in the economy. The 2020 election is shaping up as a fight over whether Americans should wear a protective mask.

In competing images on one of America’s most sacred moments of civic reflection, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden joined a Memorial Day commemoration this week wearing a mask, while, 175 kilometres away, President Donald Trump attended a separate remembrance unencumbered by a face covering.

Mr. Trump has mocked Mr. Biden for wearing a mask. Mr. Biden called Mr. Trump “an absolute fool” for refusing to do so.

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And so it is that today a simple but divisive public-health measure defines America and its politics.

“The people who are not wearing masks are by and large white, male, rural, suburban and right-leaning,’’ said online pollster John Dick, whose CivicScience public-opinion firm has examined Americans’ social, cultural and political attitudes during the pandemic. “They are the same people who voted for Trump. It is a big middle finger to everyone they resent. I’m convinced that the people who support Trump don’t even really like him that much. They just hate the people who hate Trump.”

In 1768, John Dickinson, the Philadelphia lawyer known as the penman of the American Revolution, took a Royal Navy anthem and grafted onto it his objections to British colonial taxes and eight words that in time became an American aphorism: “By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.’’

Two and a half centuries later – after Kentucky transformed that phrase into its state motto, after the patriot orator Patrick Henry employed it in his final public speech, after Abraham Lincoln borrowed it for a famous speech and after the group Brotherhood of Man made it into a 1970s pop hit – the country Dickinson’s revolution created seems hopelessly divided.

Today Americans are split over whether to reopen the country to commerce. The states are divided over how swiftly to resume normal economic activity, with the Democratic governors of the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin opting to go slowly. Mr. Dick believes that what he calls “political tribalism” is the “most powerful force in America right now – because it predicts almost everything.” And pollster John Zogby sees the fall election as a contest between “rage” and “empathy.”

In that contest, Mr. Trump personifies rage and Mr. Biden empathy – and in that regard masks are a powerful symbol.

“You don’t wear your mask out of fear, you wear it out of empathy,” said Christine Whalen, a clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Human Ecology. “Those masks aren’t protecting you, they’re protecting others. But if we all wear them, we all are protected.”

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Mr. Zogby points out that Democratic candidates who have won in the past half-century – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – have been empathy candidates, projecting “an everyman image of understanding pain and suffering,” while those who have lost – Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton – were nominees who “projected images of elitism and/or technocratic management over bonding.”

The very qualities Mr. Biden personifies are the ones Democrats hope will prevail this autumn. The very qualities Mr. Trump personifies are the ones that triumphed four years ago.

Meanwhile, the pandemic and the two men’s responses – with Mr. Biden instinctively leaning toward the views of conventional experts and Mr. Trump instinctively taking an iconoclastic approach – provide a glimpse of the campaign to come.

Five times as many Republicans as Democrats are ready to return to normal daily activities, according to CivicScience surveys. Democrats are more than three times more likely to say they will remain in quarantine even if their state or local governments allow a return to normal.

Wearing a mask may be a telling symbol of the two candidates’ outlooks but it is not an infallible guide to political affiliation. Though a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released this month said 89 per cent of Democrats but only 58 per cent of Republicans reported wearing a mask most of the time when outside their homes, two top Republican leaders in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his likely successor, John Cronyn, were seen in masks this week.

“Wearing a face covering is not about politics – it’s about helping other people,” Republican Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio said via Twitter this week.

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In the last mass domestic challenge, Franklin Delano Roosevelt combined rage (“The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization”) and empathy (“We now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well”) in the very same speech. It was his first Inaugural Address, in 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, and is considered one of his greatest speeches – and he is considered the chief executive against whom all successors are measured.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday called his Republican rival Donald Trump an ‘absolute fool’ for not wearing a mask at a series of recent public events, saying his lack of leadership on the issue is ‘costing people’s lives.’ Reuters

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