Blood Quantum, from writer-director Jeff Barnaby, is a crackling zombie set on tribal land — where indigenous people are immune to whatever is turning white people into zombies.
See if this sounds familiar: A group of white people beg for shelter and help on indigenous land. The indigenous people generously take them in. But the white people have something in their blood that proves fatal to their protectors.
Blood Quantum works as a straight-ahead, cheerfully grisly horror movie — or as a meditation on colonialism and capitalism. In the latest MovieMaker Interviews podcast, Barnaby discusses his influences, from Evil Dead to Night of the Living Dead, and how he used and reversed traditional zombie movie tropes. (He also points out some symbolism in Robocop you might have missed.) You can listen on Spotify or here by pressing the arrow:
Clashes over indigenous land and tribal sovereignty never seem to end. On the same day we originally published this interview, Friday, May 8, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem demanded that the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe take down checkpoints designed to keep people infected with COVID-19 from entering their sovereign land. Both tribes have refused.
Blood Quantum tells the story of four generations: A sheriff named Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) oversees Mi’kmaq tribal land. He and Joss (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) have a teenage son named Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) who is expecting a baby with his white girlfriend, Charlie (Olivia Scriven). Traylor’s other son, Lysol (Kiowa Gordon), is a troublemaker who may be right about everything. Traylor’s father (Stonehorse Lone Goeman) provides a link to the past and wields a mean sword.
“The things that the film is talking about are not really black or white,” Barnaby explains. “You could localize the film as just dealing with the colonization of the Americas, but I think when you start looking at it and the trajectory of colonization turning into capitalism you see a much broader picture being painted that expands beyond the politics of Natives and non-Natives.”
And he explains the concept of “Blood Quantum,” which the U.S. government created in an effort to limit tribal membership. Barnaby explains that it was a “long-term erasure policy” designed to erase indigenous people from society.
“The idea behind it is, less Indians, less treaties to honor,” he said.
Blood Quantum is now playing on Shudder.