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Night Raiders Director On Putting The Realities Of Indigenous Life Into A Fictional World

Night Raiders, the Indigenous sci-fi thriller marks the feature film directorial debut from award-winning Saskatchewan-born Cree/Métis writer/director, Danis Goulet. The film is thought-provoking and insightful, as well as beautifully shot with unforgettable emotional performances. Although Night Raiders is a work of fiction, Goulet has shared how she incorporated the realities of Indigenous life into the film.

Let me set the stage for Night Raiders. The year is 2043. A military occupation controls disenfranchised cities in post-war North America. Children are property of the State. A desperate Cree woman joins an underground band of vigilantes to infiltrate a State children’s academy and get her daughter back. This female-driven dystopian drama about resilience, courage, and love will sit with viewers for years to come. I had the pleasure of speaking with writer/director Danis Goulet for an interview with CinemaBlend, and she shared the following about incorporating the realities of Indigenous life:

I always wanted the film to be about the impact of colonial policies on Indigenous life. One of the largest systems that did impact Indigenous life in Canada was the residential school system. That was a child removal policy that was in place for seven generations of Indigenous families. I kind of always knew that it would be about a mother and daughter and that bond. In terms of the world, even though it's set in an imaginary future, everything in the film is based on real historical policies that were inflicted upon indigenous people. So everything in the film was just taken from history. And then as well, I was looking at the trends and ties that were happening in our world at large.

It’s impossible to watch Night Raiders without feeling an immediate emotional attachment to Niska (Elle-Maija Tailfeathers) and Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart). The mother and daughter have been in hiding for years so they can stay together, since being a minor makes Waseese government property. They are separated when Waseese needs medical attention and Niska has no choice but to let her daughter be taken to this prison-like school. Their journey to reuniting and the Indigenous people Niska meets along the way who provide more than assistance are breathtaking. Danis Goulet elaborated on the story with the following:

Around the time that I started writing it in 2013, I was thinking a lot about the changing demographics of North America, and I just thought there's going to be a white backlash because the power structures don't let go of power easily and there's going to be something coming. And so I wrote a world timeline that went 30 years into the future. I wrote about every US election, every four years, and then what happened politically and then what the fallout was and what the impact was. And then it eventually led to a civil war than what happened in the civil war post-war period. So all of it was just an imaginary timeline, but it was based on the anticipation of a far-right white supremacist attempted takeover of North America.

In addition to the dystopian world Danis Goulet has created, Night Raiders is at its core about the power of community. There is an unbreakable bond between the two leading ladies that are mother and daughter. But then there is the Indigenous community Niska comes across that she is not immediately aware she belongs to. As she spends time in this community, she understands that she does belong and that there is a greater purpose to be served. That’s all I’ll say about this storyline because I really want you to see this movie!

While Niska is getting acclimated with the Indigenous community, her daughter Waseese is less than thriving at school. The juxtaposition of both characters going from only having each other to having a group of people their own age to interact with is interesting because they are stark opposite experiences. Danis Goulet also discussed why she did this and what the film is trying to convey. In her words:

What the film is asking, one of the primary questions, is what does it mean not only to survive but to thrive? When we pick up Niska and Waseese at the beginning of the story, they are in survival mode and they only have each other. As much as they are bonded, that is still a barren existence... When [Niska] comes into this [Indigenous] community, it feels like a burden, first off that anyone wants anything for her from her, because she's lived so much for herself and for Waseese for so many years, I also think it's trust issues. Part of what the film is trying to say is that in order to thrive, it’s about being deserving of love and about deserving of care, deserving of community. If [Niska is] able to let that in that, her character will come into something new that is a loving space but also has purpose behind it.

Samuel Goldwyn Films will release the sci-fi thriller Night Raiders in Theaters, on Digital and On Demand on November 12, 2021. Check out the Night Raiders trailer now. Stay up to date and on top of your movie night planning with our 2021 movie release schedule and our 2021 DVD release calendar for movies and TV.

Samantha LaBat

Obsessed with Hamilton and most things Disney. Gets too attached to TV show characters. Loves a good thriller, but will only tolerate so much blood.