Night Raiders Uses a Sci-Fi Dystopia to Throw Light on a Real-Life Tragedy

Night Raiders Uses a Sci-Fi Dystopia to Throw Light on a Real-Life Tragedy
Niska (Elle-Maija Tailfeathers) prepares to defend her daughter Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart) (Image: Samuel Goldwyn Pictures)

Science fiction dystopia stories are a dime a dozen: The Handmaid’s Tale, Minority Report, The Hunger Games — the list goes on. But here’s why you shouldn’t pass over first-time director Danis Goulet’s sci-fi dystopia movie, Night Raiders: although it’s set in 2043, it’s much more about the horrors of the past than it is the future.

First, the synopsis and trailer: “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 [Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers] joins an underground band of vigilantes to infiltrate a State children’s academy and get her daughter back. A parable about the situation of the First Nations, Night Raiders is a female-driven sci-fi drama about resilience, courage and love.”

The “situation” the synopsis alludes to is the Canadian government’s forced assimilation of the peoples of the First Nations throughout the 18th century, and even into the 20th. Under the fervent belief that European culture was the “correct” culture, Canada’s Department of Indian Affairs created schools for Indigenous children — intentionally locating them far from their peoples to disconnect them from their cultures, and forcing them to learn English and French language and values. A few years ago, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission said it amounted to cultural genocide, and just this year NPR reported, “An Indigenous group announced the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried at a former boarding school in the province of British Columbia.” Things are still far from settled when it comes to Canada’s treatment of First Nations.

Using a futuristic, faceless, fascist government that steals children and turns them against their own people isn’t the most subtle metaphor, but it doesn’t have to be, and arguably shouldn’t be. Just as the Watchmen TV series shone a light on the unforgivably ignored Tulsa massacre of 1921, Night Raiders looks to do the same for another chapter of Colonial monstrousness, through the lens of science fiction. “There is so much loss when it comes to what happened in Canada to Indigenous people,” said Goulet in a recent Variety interview. “And yet there is so much that survives. Setting a story in the future frees you up creatively to talk about the past and the present in an imagined context.”

Written and directed by Goulet, executive produced by Taika Waititi, and starring Tailfeathers, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Gail Maurice, Amanda Plummer, Alex Tarrant, Violet Nelson, and more, Night Raiders arrives in theatres, digitally, and on-demand on November 12.


Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.