Night Raiders (Canada/New Zealand, 2021)

A mother goes to great lengths to rescue her daughter in this film that meshes indigenous values and future dystopia from writer/director Danis Goulet.

In the year 2044, Niska is a young Cree woman who does all she can to protect her daughter Waseese because they are in a world where the government have forced minors to attend schools where they would eventually be trained to become soldiers. Living in the woods as a means to prevent the government from arrival, Waseese is injured. Knowing she has no other choice, Niska allows the government to take Waseese and yet she vows to rescue her.

On her quest to find a way to rescue Waseese, Niska finds herself protecting two children and finds herself taken by a band of rebels from the First Nation. At first thinking she is with the government, the group soon learn Niska was there to help them and that according to a rebel elder, she may be a “guardian”. Meanwhile, Waseese is in a school where she reveals she may have more than she lets on, causing a rivalry with top student Victoria. As Niska joins the rebels, who are called the Night Raiders, they hatch a plan to stop the government and free the children, no matter the cost.

A Canadian-New Zealand co-production, one of the film’s executive producers is the great Taika Waititi. This film is quite a meshing of Indigenous values and culture with the world of dystopia, in which the government would force the kids to train to become soldiers in school. In some ways, this sounds like something seen in the Divergent franchise, but instead of the protagonist being the teen who is training, the protagonist here is a mom who helps a rebel outfit in a means to rescue her daughter and others.

Ella-Máijá Tailfeathers is excellent in the role of Niska. One would assume she would play a tough as nails mother who can unleash some action with the snap of her fingers. However, in actuality, Niska is a mother who finds herself doing what’s right but can be seen as flawed. This comes to play when she finds herself forced in a situation whether to make sure her daughter has the proper medicine or risk her only family succumbing to her injuries.

And speaking of that character, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart is just as excellent in the role of Waseese, Niska’s headstrong daughter who despite living in the area, is seen as an outsider due to her Indigenous roots. In one scene, she is called a “savage” from a pompous fellow student at the institution she is forced to train in. Despite having some sense of care from the headmistress there, being a member of the Cree, Waseese still feels like she must do what it takes to protect herself amidst the chaos.

Amanda Plummer is great as well in the role of Roberta, a member of the Night Raiders, who empathizes with Niska as her son had fallen victim to the brainwashing methods of the government. She helps because she doesn’t want Waseese to go through what she had to endure. Alex Tarrant’s Leo plays a vital part in the role of the Night Raiders. He’s the translator for the village elder Niska meets and pretty much stands as the de facto leader of the group and despite some differences with Niska, they work together to ensure the safety of the Cree kids and others who have fallen victim to the government.

Night Raiders is an emotional, thrilling, and wild ride that meshes Indigenous values with dystopian future with excellent performances by leads Ella-Máijá Tailfeathers and Brooklyn Letexier-Hart. Definitely worth checking out.

WFG RATING: A-

Samuel Goldwyn Films presents an Alcina Pictures/Eagle Vision/Miss Conception Films/Uno Bravo production in association with Telefilm Canada and the New Zealand Film Commission. Director: Danis Goulet. Producers: Danis Goulet, Paul Barkin, Georgina Allison Conder, Aisnley Gardiner, Tara Woodbury, and Chelsea Winstanley. Writer: Danis Goulet. Cinematography: Daniel Grant. Editing: Jorge Weisz.

Cast: Ella-Máijá Tailfeathers, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Alex Tarrant, Amanda Plummer, Shaun Sipos, Violet Nelson, Gail Maurice, Suzanne Cyr, Birva Pandya, Pamela Matthews.

The film will be released in select theaters, On Demand, and Digital on November 19.

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