Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers & Danis Goulet talk powerful, Indigenous dystopian thriller, Night Raiders

by W. Andrew Powell
Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Danis Goulet

Night Raiders is writer and director Danis Goulet’s genre-busting, dystopian thriller about a woman trying to survive, and rescue her child, in a world where a police state rules over a broken society.

The film had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, and it’s a gripping look at the way colonization has broken Indigenous families apart for hundreds of years, especially with Canada’s vile residential school system.

Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers stars as Niska, a mother trying to survive in a bleak landscape with her daughter, Waseese, played by the incredible Brooklyn Letexier-Hart. Night Raiders follows them on a path through this place that is the ultimate representation of everything that colonialism has done, on a scale that’s horrifying.

I sat down with Tailfeathers and Goulet at TIFF, and they graciously reflected on the work to make the film, and the heart of the story.

For Goulet, she was especially thankful to the Indigenous screen community for the support that empowered her to make Night Raiders.

Brooklyn Letexier-Hart and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers
Brooklyn Letexier-Hart and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers

“To me, it’s like the ground, and my second family,” Goulet said, “and it really has given me the strength to tell such a big story on such a scale like this.”

“It was such an honour to play Niska,” Tailfeathers said. “I was just so excited to have the opportunity… it was truly an incredible experience because Niska is so many Indigenous women that I know. Her story is so close to home, I think for all of us, and so there was just this immense responsibility of doing her story justice.”

Tailfeathers also praised Goulet for the environment she created that was both safe, and nurturing, to help tell this story. “It was just really cool,” she said.

Speaking about the core of the story, Goulet reflected on what she sees as the heart of the story, and the biggest theme.

“We have experienced so much loss and trauma, but within our communities our sense of power and resistance comes from a place of love and I wanted to express that love on screen, which is in the community of people that are resisting in spite of what seems like impossible odds,” Goulet said.

“And that’s also why this genre offers so much in terms of possibility. It’s a perfect allegory for Indigenous experience,” she said, including the idea of vigilantes fighting a destructive, overpowering empire. “But to me, the heart of the film is always about coming back to love, and that, when our families have been fractured, what we deserve to have, as communities, is love.”

Watch the full interview with Danis Goulet and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers below. Night Raiders is in theatres across Canada now and also stars Gail Maurice, Amanda Plummer, Alex Tarrant, Violet Nelson, Shaun Sipos, and Suzanne Cyr.

Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers
Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers

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