The Night Raiders are a dystopian world in which indigenous peoples have been expelled from their land and placed in ghettos in nature reserves while their children are forcibly enrolled in boarding schools that brainwash them into forgetting their language and culture. That these are aspects of true North American indigenous history, and not just futuristic fictions, is the witty and damning vanity of Denis Goulet’s debut film.
The Night Raiders follows Niska (El-Maya Tailors), who managed to keep her 11-year-old daughter Vasise (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart) by her side by hiding in the woods. When a series of accidents forces them to move to the city – a squalid slum where bags of food are thrown through the air by the poor people – Niska is forced to give the stricken Vasisa to the state. But soon the torn Niska stumbles upon the Cree community, which was waiting for the predicted “guardian” to help free their children.
The sleek, lo-fi building of the Gulet world is decrepit gray cityscapes; the fields covered with factories spewing smoke are more convincing than her storytelling, which becomes more predictable as Niska and the vigilantes plan to raid Vasize Academy. However, the film’s use of clichés can sometimes be excitingly subversive, reminding us of how genre film templates borrowed from colonial history but obscure the plight of its real victims. The final showdown between Cree fighters and Special Forces soldiers is reminiscent of Westerns, although the stakes are reversed: the colonialists are not heroes, but the bad guys.
Not rated. In Cree and English with subtitles. The duration of the performance is 1 hour 37 minutes. In theaters and available for rent or purchase on Apple TV, Google Play, and other streaming platforms and Pay TV operators.