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  Night Raiders Canada's Bleak Future
Year: 2021
Director: Danis Goulet
Stars: Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Alex Tarrant, Amanda Plummer, Shaun Sipos, Violet Nelson, Gail Maurice, Suzanne Cyr, Pamela Matthews, Scott Barker, Kevin Allan Hess, Elena Khan, David MacInnis, Eric Osborne, Briva Pandaya, Subhash Santos
Genre: Drama, Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is the middle of the twenty-first century and in North America a dictatorship has dominated the landscape for some time now, keeping the population in line with troops trained from the young in large complexes, and by drones which patrol the skies and watch over them in case of any insurgency that might be brewing. One mother who may have escaped this regime is Niska (Elle-Maija Tailfeathers) who lives in a Canadian forest with her daughter Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart), away from civilisation and fairly confident of being able to exist "off grid". However, one day while out, the girl gets her foot caught in a mantrap, and though Niska manages to get her back to their concealed caravan, a drone appears above...

The scandal of Canadian residential schools for the indigenous members of its population was what informed writer and director Danis Goulet when she concocted this dystopian science fiction, which made waves by being a film in her native language that actually was awarded a wider release than any other in that vein. That, at least, was to be commended, though how many would be satisfied with it once they had watched it was a different matter, as while there was nothing egregiously awful about Night Raiders, it simply wasn't an exciting experience when it boiled down. Certainly the milieu of the future was well portrayed, but mostly because it looked so perfectly awful to live in, not because it was entertaining to sit through, and the educational value was shaky.

The frustrating thing was that if Goulet had made a drama about kids in the residential schools who were forced to give up their culture in favour of a homogenous Western authority-approved one, it probably would not have enjoyed that wider release. The promise of a sci-fi adventure can make your audience forgive plenty, assuming you deliver on it, but sad to say we were left with scene after scene, shot after shot of grey misery, both urban and rural which did not get things off to a compelling start and after over an hour and a half of this, was doubtful if it would make many viewers look up the scandal for the real story. Children of Men was Goulet's influence, but for all that film's flaws it did sustain an absorbing narrative and do something interesting with its cityscapes of dejection and combat; here you were left with a broken backed narrative where one thread was more interesting than another.

When Niska and her daughter are separated, Waseese gets an fairly interesting plotline to follow as the powers that be try to indoctrinate her and train her as a soldier, which does haved some relevance to the facts that this was drawn from. Alas, most of this follows her mother, who is given very little to do but react until the latter stages, as she gets involved with a native village who are gearing up for a battle against the forces that would wipe them out, or capture them anyway. In practice this relegates Niska to a directionless path until she can refind her daughter, with the indigenous characters left to play out what came across as uncomfortable back to nature stereotypes, not what you would have wanted from a director who had that background herself. As Taika Waititi was an executive producer here, he cast a New Zealander in a supporting role, Alex Tarrant, without explaining too well what he's doing there among this tribe other than serving to please Waititi, a symptom of a movie that was too dour, too confused, to have its desired effect. If you liked your science fiction depressing, dive in, but be warned the happy ending was like something out of Mary Poppins. Music by Moniker.

[Signature Entertainment presents Night Raiders on Digital Platforms 6th December 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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