Night Raiders, dystopian future harks back to the past

Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers in Night Raiders

Night Raiders is set in a dystopian future. This joint Canada and New Zealand production tells the story of indigenous people from their point of view. The story involves state schools for children who are taken from their parents forcefully. It echoes the “Indian schools” of the past, but sets it in a dark future.

Night Raiders was written and directed by Danis Goulet, who is Cree/Metis. Most of the main characters in the story are Cree people.

Niska (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) and her 11 year old daughter Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart) have been living off the land deep in the forest for years. Waseese is a bit of a bird whisperer, which gives the story a supernatural undertone.

Drones find them. That forces them to move and hide elsewhere. There are drones everywhere searching for hidden children.

Brooklyn Letexier-Hart and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers in Night Raiders
Don’t let the drones see your face!

As they run, Waseese steps in a bear trap. When the wound becomes infected, Niska takes her back to the destroyed city in search of medicine. She seeks out her old friend Roberta (Amanada Plummer) who takes them in. Roberta tells them no medicine is available. The only way to get medical care for Waseese is to turn her over to the state. She will be sent to school and educated according to state standards.

Suzanne Cyr and Brooklyn Letexier-Hart in NIght Raiders
The Headmaster (Suzanne Cyr) tells Waseese she could make it in school.

Because her daughter is so ill, Niska gives her up. Waseese is soon inside the school, where she is indeed healthy again, but not accepted. Meanwhile Niska hangs around outside the school hoping for a glimpse of her.

Late at night, Niska runs in to a group of Cree who have a way to steal children back out of the school. She goes with them to their camp in the woods. The Cree people are convinced she’s a prophesied guardian who will save the children. Niska is not at all sure she can do that, but she does want to get her own child out of the school. They join forces in a night raid on the school.

The poster for Night Raiders shows the main characters surrounded by drones. Below them, in a bombed out ruin of a city, a woman is mounted on a horse.

This was a remarkably good film, in my opinion. The world building was excellent in spite of the low budget. The story honored the Cree people and their way of life. It showed in powerful graphic ways how damaging and harmful it is (and was) to take children into institutions to be brainwashed.

The twist at the end was a little unbelievable and the characters could have been better developed, but overall I found it excellent. I always appreciate it when indigenous people tell their own stories. You can see it on Netflix, Hulu, or Tubi.

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