The prose poem "Cree Girl Explodes the Necropolis of Ottawa" by Billy-Ray Belcourt opens with a reference to the Canadian feature film Rhymes for Young Ghouls . This is a real film that was written and directed by First Nation filmmaker Jeff Barnaby. The film concerns a teenager named Aila...
The prose poem "Cree Girl Explodes the Necropolis of Ottawa" by Billy-Ray Belcourt opens with a reference to the Canadian feature film Rhymes for Young Ghouls. This is a real film that was written and directed by First Nation filmmaker Jeff Barnaby. The film concerns a teenager named Aila whose mother Anna commits suicide when Aila is young. Aila's life is full of tragedy and degradation. When she is a teenager, she takes over her father's drug business and plots revenge against her nemesis, an Indian agent named Popper who locks up Aila, cuts her hair, and attempts to rape her. The film is an expose of the abusive residential school system.
Belcourt begins his poem by explaining that in the flashback during "the first seven minutes" of the film, Aila's mother Anna kills herself and as a result Aila "aged one thousand years." In other words, she lost any sense of innocence she might have once had. He goes on to mention Aila taking over "the drug-dealing business" and seeking "revenge against the Indian agent" Popper.
In an interview for the literary magazine Brick, Belcourt reads the poem and then discusses the reference to Rhymes for Young Ghouls. He says that it is a key film in new wave Native filmmaking, and that its purpose is to "lay bare atrocities of history and how they reverberate into the present." However, he questions whether the presentation of such misery, sorrow, images of suffering, and proliferation of violence against Native women is useful.
Belcourt's purpose in "Cree Girl Explodes the Necropolis of Ottawa" is to provide an alternative vision of what a First Nation film should be like. According to the poet, instead of emphasizing suffering, a First Nation film should focus on a Cree girl who can travel into the future to a time in which NDN misery is in the past. (In his introduction to his book NDN Coping Mechanisms Belcourt explains that "NDN is internet shorthand used by Indigenous peoples in North America to refer to ourselves. It is also sometimes an acronym meaning Not Dead Native.")
A necropolis is a cemetery. In referring to Ottawa as a necropolis, Belcourt may be indicating that it is a symbol of the dead ideas of the past. When the Cree girl blows it up, it is an act of liberation.
Belcourt concludes by emphasizing that his film would not focus on "the bloodied hands of history" but instead would see the Cree girl as an individual, "a cartographer (map-maker) who maps a world in her image and no one else's." In other words, she can be seen as a unique individual instead of a racial stereotype.