TIFF Review: 'Night Raiders' Examines Canada's Colonial Past by Imagining Its Sci-Fi Future Directed by Danis Goulet
Starring Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Gail Maurice, Amanda Plummer, Alex Tarrant, Violet Nelson, Shaun Sipos, Suzanne Cyr
Published Sep 13, 2021Night Raiders tells the story of Canada's colonial past, with particular focus on the residential school system, in the form of a sci-fi, dystopian thriller. We follow Niska (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers), a Cree mother who lives off the grid with her daughter, Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart). When Waseese is badly injured, Waseese is forced to make the impossible decision of giving up her daughter to the authorities in the hopes of recovering. With the help of a group of Cree vigilantes, Niska becomes learns more about the state's intention to indoctrinate children into their patriotic philosophy while forgetting their own culture. Niska joins the group and attempts to reunite with Waseese.
Night Raiders also has some great performances, including Amanda Plummer delivering a typically enigmatic turn. And the chemistry of Tailfeathers and Letexier-Hart is honest and easy to believe. Their relationship is meant to be the emotional core of the film, but it gets overshadowed when the storyline of the vigilantes takes over.
Director Danis Goulet creates a believable dystopian world well and the parallels to Canadian history are clearly made. Canada's history, especially with the Indigenous peoples, is too complex to properly examine in 100 minutes; as a result, the film has a lot of interesting themes, but none are realized enough to make a deep impact.
As Canada continues to reckon with its history, films like Night Raiders serve an important role of sharing stories and preserving the past. Night Raiders may not be the definitive film about residential schools and the history of Canada and its Indigenous people, but it's worthwhile to catch. Danis Goulet is becoming one of Canada's brightest filmmakers, and Night Raiders is a step in the right direction.
The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9 to 18. Get info about in-person and online screenings at the festival website. (Elevation)