#TIFF21: “NIGHT RAIDERS” REVIEW
Review by David Baldwin
In the not too distant future, war has broken out across North America and has resulted in the military taking control of what is left. They take children to train at State Academies, never to be seen from their parents again. Niska (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) has been living off the land, protecting and keeping her daughter Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart) away from the military’s prying arms for her entire life. But after Waseese gets injured and taken away, Niska must find a way to get her back.
NIGHT RAIDERS feels timely and incredibly relevant given the controversies around Residential Schools over the past few months. In her feature-length debut, Writer/Director Danis Goulet has created a searing portrait of Native Canadian life that pulls no punches with its allusions and references to everything from colonialism to genocide to assimilation. She has a lot on her mind and does her best to wrap all of these elements under the guise of a futuristic dystopic Thriller that does not look far off from our current hellscape. While Goulet’s work here will make you stand up and take notice, it feels like the script and pacing could have been better finessed and tightened. None of the supporting characters has any chance to develop beyond being a plot device, and many of her set-ups get very little in the way of payoffs. Goulet knows the story she wants to tell, but the prologue is too long and makes the rest of the Film feel rushed and disjointed. It feels like the story would have been better suited to a mini-series than a feature.
All of that said, I was impressed with the minimal Special Effects, the grimy Production Design and the lead performances from Tailfeathers and especially Letexier-Hart. Both are just as terrific together as they are apart, and are more in tune with the story than the film around them. Their characters and relationship feel genuinely lived in, and their raw emotions give the Film its heart. This is the story of a mother and a daughter first, and a Sci-Fi film second.
NIGHT RAIDERS screens at TIFF ’21:
Fri, Sep 10 Roy Thomson Hall 5:30 PM
Sat, Sep 11 digital TIFF Bell Lightbox 1:00 PM
Fri, Sep 17 digital TIFF Bell Lightbox 9:00 PM
Sat, Sep 18 TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 4:00 PM