Danis Goulet On Night Raiders

Night Raiders, one of the buzzy-est films playing the festival, is a near-future Indigenous resistance story and is executive produced by Taika Waititi. We spoke with DGC Ontario Director Danis Goulet about the film’s real-life and sci-fi influences and the robust global Indigenous film community.

Danis Goulet’s Night Raiders had its world premiere at the Berlinale Film Festival this February and its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10th.

Can you tell us more about the film and its influences? 

Night Raiders is a near-future Indigenous resistance story set in a post-Civil War North America where children are the State’s property. A Cree mother is on the run with her daughter to keep her from being sent to the State’s education camps known as “the Academies.” Everything in the film is inspired by colonial policies that have been inflicted on Indigenous people throughout history, like the Indian Act and the residential school policy. It was also inspired by Indigenous resistance movements such as “Idle No More” and “Standing Rock”. 

As for my film influences, I’m interested in the intersection of genre and realism. I have been influenced by everything from Indigenous activist documentary filmmakers like Alanis Obomsawin to social realism (especially Andrea Arnold’s women-centric films) and speculative fiction and sci-fi films like District  and The Matrix. I think this film’s touchstone has always been Children of Men, as it’s an incredible example of speculative fiction that is completely emotionally-driven.

How did your relationship with Executive Producers Taika Waititi and Chelsea Winstanley develop? How did they support your creative process? 

There is a robust global Indigenous film community that is very connected and tight-knit. We’ve been gathering for years at film festivals worldwide, and imagineNATIVE here in Toronto has been such a central hub for these connections. I met Taika years ago when we both had shorts at Sundance, and later met Chelsea there. They have been incredible supporters of the film. I also connected to Ainsley Gardiner through imagineNATIVE (producer of Taika’s early films like Boy). She came on board as a producer on the New Zealand side, which was great as she is one of the most sought-after producers in that country. Tara Woodbury, Paul Barkin, and I were lucky to have this incredible collaboration with all of them. All of us can’t wait to take the film down to New Zealand so we can thank our partners down there and celebrate in person. 

Can you tell us how important Indigenous storytelling is to you?

Indigenous storytelling is the ground that I’m standing on as a Cree/Metis filmmaker. In the film realm, we’ve had to contend with over 100 years of misrepresentation and under-representation of our stories on screen. These harmful narratives have served to dehumanize us and have real-life consequences. I’m driven to change the narratives about us and support our incredible community of Indigenous filmmakers working towards the same goal. 
Also, there are so many stories to be told! There is so much richness, poetry, beauty and complexity in our cultures and our storytelling traditions, and I’ve always been passionate about how our stories can translate onto the screen. My film is situated within a wave of Indigenous film that is coming, and it is such an incredible time. I’m so excited about what is to come! 

What do you love about working in Toronto/Ontario?

The crew. When we were shooting, I just felt so lucky to be working with this incredible world-class crew! People worked so hard and dedicated so much of themselves to get this made. It was truly such an honour to work with all of these great folks at the top of their games. 

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