Night Raiders

Night Raiders is a dystopian film that follows a Cree woman named Niska and her daughter Waseese after they are separated due to Niska making a difficult choice for her daughter’s health. This film probably isn’t going to get much attention. I knew of it but only decided to watch it once I discovered that Taika Waititi was the executive producer. And when I learned it was actually a dystopian about indigenous people, I prioritised seeing it before watching The Black Phone.
One of the things about dystopian films is that they tend not to show how the circumstances of society collapsing affect other groups of people. And so, when dystopian fiction focuses on the same group of people repeatedly, the genre starts to feel stale. And don’t get me wrong; there are some dystopian works where the cast is diverse. For example, the zombie apocalypse show The Walking Dead and the disaster genre anime Japan Sinks 2020. And I also like Children of Men, I Am Legend (with the alternate ending), The Road and The Handmaid’s Tale. But even so, all of these tend to fall short because not everyone gets accounted for. And whenever I watch this particular genre of film/television, I usually find myself wondering how this affects indigenous and queer people.
Anyways, in this regard, I did find that Night Raiders was a step in this direction.
So before I went to see the film, I got a peek at some reviews. According to Rotten Tomatoes, it appeared that critics really liked it but that audiences very much didn’t. And usually, when this happens, I find I’m in for something interesting. Having seen it now, I can’t say that that was the case.
A lot of people seem to think the film suffered from too many YA cliches. And as someone who didn’t like dystopian YA film series from the early 2010s, I honestly didn’t see it in this case. The film is about a single mother and her eleven-year-old daughter trying to get back to each other; the fact that that was the premise made the film feel torn from the feeling of watching a YA dystopian adaptation.
Another criticism I saw was that the filmmaking was “amateurish”, and uh, no, it wasn’t. It really really wasn’t. Like, I’ve made some amateur films before, and I wish they were that good. Saying that, I know what this criticism is referring to. There are some aspects of the film that I would describe as intermediate. And that’s not surprising because this is the director Danis Goulet’s feature debut. And honestly, the quality of the film meets my expectations of first-time directors. And the story and concept alone of the film, which I enjoyed immensely, excites me about her future work.
I liked Night Raiders (and I wish this film had a less generic title), but my main issue with the film was the ending, specifically the conflict resolution. It’s not a Deus Ex Machina; luckily, the film does planting, reminding, and payoff. But I still think it was corny and not well thought out. And it’s unfortunate because I feel like that’s what cramps the film from reaching its full potential.
For alternate recommendations, I’d like to suggest Undead and Daybreakers, directed by the Spierig brothers. I think both are unique dystopian films that meet the same quality as Night Raiders, which I hold a soft spot for. And while I haven’t been able to see it yet due to it not being widely available (where I live at least), I would be remiss if I didn’t also suggest the AMC+ series Firebite about Australian Aboriginal vampire hunters. Hopefully, I can review that last one next year for Halloween.



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