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TIFF 2021 Review: Night Raiders – “The cinematic ambitions are commendable”

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In a dystopian future an Indigenous woman seeks to rescue her institutionalized daughter from being brainwashed by an oppressive military regime.

Living out in the bush are mother and daughter trying to avoid the attention an occupying military force that uses weaponized drones for surveillance and to deliver food; trouble arises when the latter gets seriously injured by a hunting trap; a separation occurs between them when parental guardianship is relinquished to the government forces in an effort to get proper medical attention.  An encounter with a rebel group and the revelation that the state academies are brainwashing their students causes the grief-stricken protagonist to orchestrate a rescue mission.

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One of the beauties of science fiction is the ability to address contemporary social issues without the subject matter becoming preachy.  In her feature directorial debut, Danis Goulet has created a dystopian futuristic society that has been inspired by the colonial occupation that caused Indigenous children to be shipped off to residential schools to be stripped of their culture and properly educated in the ways of the new world order.  The story has been made more poignant with the recent discovery of mass graves at residential schools across Canada.

A massive accomplishment is world-building on an independent film budget which features integrated visual effects for the destitute urban environment and drones which are part of the principal cast.  Shots linger which allows viewers to absorb the environment for which they find themselves in.  The trouble is in the pacing as the narrative lumbers forward.  Less talk and more action would help to create an agency that is so needed to make the events and characters more compelling and engaging.  The cinematic ambitions are commendable but are undercut by the final execution which feels lackluster.

The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18, 2021, and for more information visit tiff.net.    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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