There’s a slight threat of predictability once Night Raiders shows its colours, with a danger that the film will turn out to be yet another dystopian/post-apocalyptic/humanity in fear from unspecified peril/a chosen one will rise to save everyone/gosh, the skies are always so darn grey type of story. By innovating within these familiar tropes, director Danis Goulet has delivered a fresh spin on what could have easily been a repetition of all that has come before. The feature is actually a co-production between Canada and New Zealand, with Taika Waititi listed as an executive producer. Anyone expecting the type of structured shenanigans Waititi has built his reputation on will have to look elsewhere, because Night Raiders isn’t that kind of movie – not that this is a problem.
In the aftermath of a war, survivors lead a listless existence in what remains of the cities of North America. All children must be taken into custody so they can be sent to the cheerfully sinister Academy, where they will be given a better life, ultimately culminating in admittance to the only safe territory remaining. In a moment of despair, Niska (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) must leave her unwell daughter Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart) in the clutches of the authorities. She encounters a camp of First Nations Cree in the woods, who offer her a means to free her daughter.
The film establishes a foreboding atmosphere within minutes, maintaining a sense of urgency throughout, even in its quieter moments. Danis Goulet has a sharp eye for managing her audience’s expectations too, knowing which parts of the story should be stated explicitly, and what should remain shrouded in mystery. At one point, Night Raiders appears to be an analogy for the decimation of indigenous people as the result of colonialism, until it becomes apparent that this is precisely what the feature is saying, with no assumption of metaphor.
As Niska, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers anchors the story, keeping her composure as she journeys through a nightmarish future where turmoil is the norm. The story is grim, but thrillingly so.
Night Raiders does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Night Raiders here: