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#TIFF21 Review: Night Raiders (Gala Presentations)

September 10, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The Indigenous-led survival thriller Night Raiders is set in the year 2043, and imagines a dystopian, post-war society where all children are taken to be wards of the state, and put in a military academy that serves as an indoctrination camp. The film centres around Niska (Elle-Maija Tailfeathers), who is trying to survive on the run with her 11-year-old daughter Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart). Drones patrol the skies looking for kids, with military police coming to confiscate any that are found. When Waseese gets taken, Niska joins a rogue group of Cree survivors to rescue her, hatching an escape plan. 

The feature directorial debut of Cree-Métis filmmaker Danis Goulet, Night Raiders could be described as the latest Indigenous genre film following the potent zombie movie Blood Quantum, (which also starred Tailfeathers and premiered at TIFF two years ago), but it’s not nearly as successful. The story serves as a metaphor of Canada’s Residential School system, which has been top of mind recently with the horrific discovery of bodies at former sites. The film is well-intentioned in trying to raise awareness of this dark history through future allegory, but is somewhat heavy-handed in its approach.

While the Indigenous aspect of Night Raiders is unique, the story itself follows a pretty basic YA formula and is somewhat derivative of other films like Divergent and The Hunger Games. Elements of the film’s world feel frustratingly underdeveloped, including an undefined civil war that led to a suggested merger between Canada and the United States. The script has a tendency to introduce interesting ideas like this without fleshing them out well enough to really stick.

While the film does suffer from being overly ambitious, Goulet still shows some promise behind the camera, and Tailfeathers delivers a fine performance in front of it as a mother determined to rescue her daughter. The result is a decent if somewhat unremarkable post-apocalyptic survival thriller that has an interesting cultural perspective to it.

Public Screenings:

Friday, September 10th – 5:30 PM at Roy Thomson Hall

Saturday, September 11th – 1:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (Canada)

Monday, September 13th – 6:00 PM at Cineplex Cinemas St. John (Canadian Satellite Screening)

Monday, September 13th – 7:00 PM at Galaxy Cinemas Collingwood (Canadian Satellite Screening)

Friday, September 17th – 9:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (Canada)

Saturday, September 18th – 4:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox

The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9th to 18th.

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