Canadian Women Film Directors Database
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Night Raiders

Directed by Danis Goulet
Canada / New Zealand, 2021 (fiction, 101 minutes, colour, Cree / English)
Also known as "Les voleurs de la nuit"
Night Raiders
Image: © Alcina Pictures

Film Description [in French] :
"L'année 2043. Des villes de l'Amérique du Nord sont privées de leurs droits et contrôlées par une organisation militaire. Les enfants sont devenus la propriété de l'État. Niska, une femme désespérée d'origine crie, se joindra à un groupe secret de justiciers, afin de tenter d'infiltrer une académie jeunesse où sa fille se trouverait. Réussira-t-elle à la libérer des griffes de l'État, dans un contexte hautement violent? La résilience, le courage et l'amour triompheront-ils?"
-- (source)

Film Description:
"2043—in a dystopian future a military occupation controls disenfranchised cities in post-war North America. Children are considered property of the regime which trains them to fight. A desperate Cree woman joins an underground band of vigilantes to infiltrate a State children's academy and get her daughter back. A parable about the experience of the Indigenous peoples of North America, Night Raiders is a female-driven sci-fi drama about resilience, courage and love."
-- Samuel Goldwyn Films (source)

Film Description:
"After a destructive war across North America, a military occupation seizes control of society. One of their core tactics: taking children from their families and putting them into State Academies, or forced-education camps. Niska (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) is a Cree mother desperate to protect her daughter Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart). But events force mother and daughter to separate, leading Niska to join a group of Cree vigilantes to get her daughter back. If this story echoes the real forced assimilation of Indigenous children that colonizing powers undertook in Canada, the US, Australia, and beyond, that's no coincidence. Goulet is Cree-Métis from northern Saskatchewan. With Night Raiders, she transforms the ugly reality of residential schools into remarkable, cinematic world building. The production design, cinematography, and visual effects all contribute to a full immersion in a powerful, fictional world. But Goulet's vision, combined with powerful performances from Tailfeathers, Letexier-Hart, and Gail Maurice, bring this speculative future into dialogue with our past. Night Raiders is not just a singular Canadian film, but a new view of Canada for the whole world."
-- Toronto International Film Festival (source)

Film Credits (partial):
Written by: Danis Goulet
Produced by: Paul Barkin, Tara Woodbury, Ainsley Gardiner, Georgina Conder, Chelsea Winstanley, Taika Waititi, Noah Segal, Tim White, Adrian Love, Kyle Irving, Lisa Meeches
Principal Cast: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Alex Tarrant, Amanda Plummer, Gail Maurice, Violet Nelson
Cinematography: Daniel Grant
Film Editing: Jorge Weisz
Music: Moniker
Production Company: Alcina Pictures, Eagle Vision, Miss Conception Films, Uno Bravo

Awards won by Night Raiders

Notes about Night Raiders


Quotes by the Director

"Everything in [Night Raiders], even though it's set in the near future, has already happened in some way—everything is based on real events or colonial policies that were inflicted on Indigenous people. Obviously the idea that children are the property of the state is an allegory for residential schools. But the film's idea of moving people onto bad tracts of land is based on the reserve system, and the idea of keeping them from moving around is based on the pass system that Indigenous people were required to obey to leave their reserve, which I still don't think many Canadians know about."
-- Danis Goulet (source)

"I would say all of my work across the board deals with the impacts of colonization in some way, but I felt that it was important to talk about residential schools because it was such a massive far-reaching system. The fracturing of families is such an effective tool of colonization because it causes intergenerational trauma—as we know in our own families. There are some really shocking things in the film [Night Raiders]. Like, for example, when the one character who was a mother meets up with her son and without giving any spoilers, it really shows the horror of the schools."
-- Danis Goulet (source)

"Speculative fiction exists as a warning. So let's hope it doesn't happen again. But the impulse for it to happen again is always there. The genre creates a certain freedom for me as a filmmaker, but it also offers a layer of protection to both all of the people involved in the making of the story [Night Raiders] ... but also to broader audiences. It's a fresh entry point into a subject that may fatigue them."
-- Danis Goulet (source)

"The global Indigenous community is super-connected on the festival circuit. I met Taika [Waititi] at Sundance 2004, when we both had shorts there. Around the time we were looking for funding [for Night Raiders], I reached out to Taika and asked if he'd consider being an EP [executive producer] and he said, 'Absolutely.' I wanted an Indigenous producer partner, and we met with Ainsley Gardiner, who produced Taika's early movies. I had the idea of expressing on screen the solidarity that's there between the communities."
-- Danis Goulet (source)

"The notion of even imagining ourselves in the future can be a very powerful act, especially when in the creation of Canada we [First Nations] were not supposed to exist in the future. These are serious things that any colonized country should really be grappling with: how they were founded upon the attempted genocide of Indigenous people. But when you work in the genre space, in a funny way, you can hit your message harder, because in fiction you're allowed to embellish."
-- Danis Goulet (source)

"There was something about the freedom of genre filmmaking that I wanted, while still connecting to the social realist aesthetics of my earlier short films. And one of the central questions I explore [in Night Raiders] is, what does it mean not only to survive but to thrive? In an Indigenous context, people are used to operating in survival mode—you're locked down, one day at a time. Thriving is about realizing you're deserving of more than survival mode. I want to reflect the importance of coming home and connecting to people that care, and part of that was exploring the impacts of trauma, and how it also affects your ability to give and receive love."
-- Danis Goulet (source)

"When I went to make Night Raiders, I approached a broadcaster and they sent me notes back from a reader. The reader sent very positive notes about the story and the characters, but then said, 'I just don't know if the allegory of residential schools works, because as a country we've moved on from that and priests are no longer harming Indigenous children.' So the question of the story was whether or not it was actually relevant. And that was in the very month that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was releasing its findings about residential schools, so that conversation hadn't even really begun. That's just one tiny example of the barriers that Indigenous filmmakers are up against when [we] navigate the industry. But by the time that I went to make Night Raiders, I feel like the doors were really opening, and we were being embraced and had amazing support from Telefilm and [the Canada Media Fund] and from Ontario Creates. But I think that was because of people pushing for change and saying, repeatedly, that Indigenous people had to be empowered in key creative roles and also have agency over our own storytelling. So it's a really important moment that we should definitely celebrate—and we want to push it forward and keep the momentum going—but it's also important to acknowledge how many years we felt invisible, and that there are still many barriers to overcome."
-- Danis Goulet (source)

Quotes by the Director [in French]

"Il existe une véritable communauté de cinéastes autochtones à travers le monde. Nous sommes très solidaires. J'ai connu Taika [Waititi] en 2004, à Sundance, où nous présentions chacun un court métrage. Quand je l'ai approché, il a immédiatement accepté de soutenir le projet [Night Raiders]"
-- Danis Goulet (source)

"Tous les événements dans ce film [Night Raiders] se sont déjà produits au cours de notre histoire, mais le fait de situer le récit dans le futur m'a donné beaucoup de liberté. Cela m'a aussi donné une couche de protection en tant que scénariste. Cette partie de notre histoire a eu des conséquences graves sur nos communautés. Le fait de placer l'histoire du film dans le futur me permettait d'y intégrer plusieurs éléments de fiction et de montrer d'une façon différente et originale les répercussions de ces tragédies sur la vie des gens."
-- Danis Goulet (source)

"Travailler avec des moyens limités oblige à faire des choix difficiles, mais je pense qu'ici, ça aide l'esthétique et l'atmosphère du film [Night Raiders]. Je suis une sceptique vis-à-vis des effets spéciaux. Pour qu'un monde paraisse réel, on doit pouvoir le toucher. Cette qualité tactile n'est possible qu'en filmant dans de vrais lieux, avec les éléments."
-- Danis Goulet (source)

Quotes about Night Raiders

"Night Raiders is an important step forward for Indigenous futurism on screen. [Danis] Goulet has created a story for us to ponder in 2021 that references the past, addresses current Indigenous concerns, and explores the path toward a better future. In looking at the value of children in a dystopian future, how they could be scarce and endangered, Night Raiders recalls Alfonso Cuaron's incredible Children of Men. Both films tackle how important children are to the very existence of a people and a culture. The difference is that Indigenous people have already seen these traumatic possibilities become reality, and have already battled for preservation of children, language, culture, and survival (some might say that battle continues). Night Raiders is a science fiction film, but at the same time, it discusses very real things that have happened to Indigenous people in the past. Stories like Night Raiders shine a light on a raw wound from which Indigenous cultures are still healing. These are not easy stories to tell, and Goulet is one of the few filmmakers with the knowledge, craft, and skill to tell this painful story."
-- Jason Asenap (source)

"The [Canadian Screen Awards] prize for best feature-length documentary went to Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy from filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers from the Kainai First Nation. Tailfeathers was also recognized for performing talents as best lead actress in Night Raiders, adding a sixth award to the Indigenous thriller's collection. A visibly emotional Tailfeathers thanked Cree-Métis director Danis Goulet and the rest of the film's team, dedicating the award to her family. 'I'd like to dedicate it to my grandparents, who both survived residential school and lived their lives with love, strength and dignity,' said Tailfeathers. And to my father who survived the Sami boarding school system and to my mother, who showed me what living and leading with love looks like."
-- Adina Bresge (source)

"The dedication shown in Night Raiders to authentic Indigenous representation extends both in front and behind the camera, as the film's cast and crew are largely Indigenous. Goulet and her team also sought out as many Cree collaborators as possible, even building a mentorship program into the production."
-- Aviva Dove-Viebahn (source)

"[Danis] Goulet's sleek, lo-fi world-building—decrepit gray cityscapes; fields covered with smoke-spewing factories—is more compelling than her storytelling [in Night Raiders], which grows increasingly predictable as Niska and the vigilantes plan a raid on Waseese's academy. Yet the film's use of clichés can also be thrillingly subversive at times, reminding us of the ways in which genre-movie templates borrow from the history of colonization but obscure the plight of its real victims. A final showdown between the Cree fighters and SWAT-style soldiers recalls westerns, though the stakes are reversed here: The colonizers are not the heroes, but the bad guys."
-- Devika Girish (source)

"[Danis] Goulet gives us a world of dilapidated high rises, grey clouds and war-torn despair as robot drones relentlessly patrol the skies looking for children. (The film's occasional special effects are deftly executed.) On its surface, Night Raiders isn't appreciably different from dozens of other dystopian pictures concerning authoritarian governments that must be overthrown, but soon the filmmaker introduces a metaphor for cultural erasure that gives the proceedings a provocative twist. Part of the Indigenous Cree people, Niska is embraced by the Night Raiders, who view this new regime not just as evil but the latest example of outsiders trying to colonise their land. Similarly, Waseese's stint in the academy isn't simply a training ground to mould her into a warrior—the all-white leadership renames the girl Elizabeth as part of a program to Westernise her."
-- Tim Grierson (source)

"Night Raiders combines genre filmmaking with a fiery through-line of social justice. Goulet's stark dystopia, effectively rendered on a not-huge budget, is both a chilling vision of what's to come and a nervy reminder of Canada's past. Arriving at TIFF after its world premiere in Berlin earlier this winter, Night Raiders should become the most talked-about Canadian film of the year. And for good reason."
-- Barry Hertz (source)

"Playing a mother who must balance her daughter's future with the fate of all humanity, not to mention her own survival, [Elle-Maija] Tailfeathers tears into Niska [her character in Night Raiders] with frightening ease. It is the kind of powerful and charismatic performance that cements a career, and [Danis] Goulet wisely keeps her star front and centre whenever possible."
-- Barry Hertz (source)

"[As an actor in Night Raiders] I got to speak my language [Cree]. When you have your language and you speak it, it's not just a language, it's actually—it's a living thing. It comes from the ground. It comes from the Earth and it just flows through me, and it pulses. So it's not just a language it's actually—I'm going to cry—it's like it's my ancestors."
-- Gail Maurice (source)

"Although Goulet's film [Night Raiders] is ultimately better at scene-setting than storytelling, the world she builds is a remarkably detailed, revealing reflection of our own."
-- Noel Murray (source)

"Danis Goulet has been a friend and mentor for a very long time, and she has been really important in building my career as a filmmaker. I knew Danis had been working on this script [for Night Raiders] for quite a few years, and I was so curious to know what it was about. So, when my agent sent me the audition call for the film, I obviously jumped at the opportunity and was thrilled to be auditioning for Danis because she's such a phenomenally talented director."
-- Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (source)

"Niska [in Night Raiders] is so many people that I know. Indigenous people have experienced a lot regarding settler colonialism and genocide, and Niska's experienced a great deal of trauma. That trauma informs her response to the world around her, and I feel like she's so many people I know who have experienced trauma and who are existing on the margins but are incredibly strong. There's a lot of Indigenous single mothers out there who are in Niska's shoes, and I felt like I could identify with that. To me, she's this unconventional, reluctant hero, and I so appreciated going on the journey with her. Her story is ultimately informed by love, and I think that's just so beautiful."
-- Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (source)

"Night Raiders is now setting records. The film has the largest budget of any Indigenous-led film in Canadian history, a record previously held by Jeff Barnaby's Blood Quantum. The film also debuted in 80 theatres, becoming the largest theatrical release of any Indigenous-led film in Canadian history. Night Raiders is a Canada / New Zealand co-production, another Indigenous first for the Canadian film industry. [Danis] Goulet believes all of these firsts are proving that anything is possible and that Indigenous-led projects are heading in a direction we've never been before."
-- Dennis Ward (source)

Quotes about Night Raiders [in French]

"Pour son premier long métrage, la réalisatrice Danis Goulet a campé son intrigue en 2043. D'une guerre civile est née la formation d'un seul gouvernement pour toute l'Amérique du Nord, et un mur sur l'ancienne frontière entre les États-Unis et le Canada a été érigé. Au sud habitent les alliés de ce régime militaire, d'extrême droite sur le plan idéologique ; au nord, les rebelles, les parias, les pauvres et les laissés-pour-compte. Dans cette partie du continent, les enfants deviennent la propriété de l'État dès l'âge de 5 ans. Et sont envoyés dans des institutions où on les « éduque » pour en faire de « bons » citoyens, quitte pour cela à les extirper de leur milieu. Ayant dû laisser partir sa fille de 11 ans [...] Niska [...] s'est jointe depuis à une organisation de résistance, sorte de milice crie, bien déterminée à récupérer un à un les enfants et à les extirper des griffes de l'endoctrinement. Ce récit, imaginé par une cinéaste crie-métisse ayant grandi à La Ronge, en Saskatchewan, glace le sang. À la lumière des récentes découvertes — les milliers de sépultures d'enfants dans les pensionnats pour Autochtones — Night Raiders fait écho, en empruntant les codes du thriller et de la science-fiction, à une douloureuse réalité."
-- Marc-André Lussier (source)

"Il est possible de dire beaucoup avec peu de moyens quand le coeur et la sincérité sont mis à contribution. Le talent ne nuit pas non plus. Et la cinéaste crie-métisse Danis Goulet, si elle n'a bénéficié que d'un budget modeste pour mettre au monde son premier long métrage, Night Raiders (Les voleurs de la nuit en V.F.), possède tout cela en quantité. Utilisant la science-fiction pour tendre un miroir vers le passé colonialiste du Canada afin de le projeter vers le futur, elle a écrit et réalisé un drame dystopique qui fait écho à la découverte récente de centaines de tombes près de pensionnats où sont allés « étudier » des milliers d'enfants autochtones arrachés à leur famille."
-- Sonia Sarfati (source)

"Dans ce drame dystopique illustrant résilience, courage et amour [Night Raiders], les enfants sont la propriété de l'État. Le personnage principal, Niska (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) tente désespérément d'infiltrer l'académie pour tenter de récupérer sa fille de 11 ans, Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart). En dehors de l'académie, les villes sont détruites, délabrées et abandonnées... Les récentes nouvelles de la découverte de restes d'enfants sur le site d'un ancien pensionnat à Kamloops, en Colombie-Britannique, rendent le film encore plus poignant et touchant."
-- Laurie Wieland (source)

Bibliography for Night Raiders

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