starring: Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Alex Tarrant, and Amanda Plummer
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
In a post-war future, a mother joins an underground band of vigilantes to try and rescue her daughter from a state-run institution.
Night Raiders is the feature debut of writer/director Danis Goulet and is a powerful story of love and resilience in a society designed to strip away hope, heritage and freedom.
In a near future, where a never ending war has fundamentally changed the lives of the people trapped within it, the government's hold over the lives of its people is all encompassing. So much so that it claims all of its people's children as property to be trained and re-educated into the state's culture and at military academies to become the next wave of soldiers in the war.
Niska has been living rough in the bush with her 11-year old daughter Waseese for a number of years in order to keep the girl away from the government's war machine. Niska is a Cree woman separated from her people and culture, desperately trying to keep her daughter safe both physically and ideologically. When Waseese is injured, it becomes clear to Niska that it is beyond her to stave off infection and heal her daughter. Niska makes the choice to allow Waseese to be taken in by the police so she can receive treatment, knowing that the cost will be permanent separation.
After months of struggling with this choice, Niska is adrift, with no purpose or prospects. A chance encounter with Cree vigilantes gives her an opportunity to reclaim purpose for her life and connection to her people, and most importantly, rescue her daughter.
Night Raiders presents an impressive portrayal of life under an oppressive, warmongering regime. Clearly films like Children of Men were an influence on the production design of the film as it creates a convincing look for the weary and wretched way of life in the city. The film also is strongly focused on the through line of the real life experiences of indigenous peoples under colonial and oppressive regimes. Although it has been noted by some that Night Raiders can seem to hew closely to YA tropes (Hunger Games etc), this may be down to individual interpretation of the influences on the writing for the film. Though the coincidence of similarity of the key dramatic elements of Night Raiders to those YA films is a bit too strong to dismiss outright.
However, the film's heart is clearly with the relationship between Niska and Waseese, played by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Brooklyn Letexier-Hart respectively. Tailfeathers gives a captivating performance as a mother wracked by guilt.
Night Raiders is a confident and riveting film, with impressive production design and a strong central performance by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, it certainly is an impressive debut from writer/director Danis Goulet.