TIFF 2021: Picture Editor Jorge Weisz On Night Raiders

Night Raiders, a story of Canada’s ugly postcolonial history told through a dystopian lens and directed by DGC Ontario Director Danis Goulet, will be screening at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10th. Ahead of the TIFF premiere of Night Raiders, we spoke to DGC Ontario Picture Editor Jorge Weisz about his work on the film, editing speculative science fiction, the film’s allegories to the residential school system, and more.

Goulet’s feature debut tells an allegorical story that follows Cree mother Niska (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) as she goes on a desperate search for her daughter Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart) after a destructive war across North America results in a military occupation seizing control of society. When Waseese is abducted and put into a State Academy forced-education camp, Niska joins a group of Cree vigilantes to get her daughter back.

For even more behind-the-scenes takes on Night Raiders, check out our previous interview with Director Danis Goulet

How does it feel to have your film premiere at TIFF 2021? 

Since I moved to Canada from Mexico more than twenty years ago, I’ve been attending TIFF every year. Carrying the festival book under my arm, I would jump from venue to venue to see the best the festival had to offer. I remember my excitement every time I sat at Roy Thomson Hall for a Gala. Having the North American premiere of Night Raiders at this venue feels like coming full circle. This is my sixth film to be screened at the festival. Each time I’ve felt honoured to share my work with Canadian audiences, friends and peers, and this is no exception. 

As a Picture Editor, what can you tell us about the process of editing, in this case, a speculative science fiction film? 

The most important part of the process for me is to understand the location of the characters, how their emotions live in the world that is being created, and how the weight of their decisions tilts the story one way or the other. As an editor, connecting with the characters and making them as relatable and honest as possible is my priority. This way, I know the audience will care for them too, no matter the setting or genre. Whether the project I am working on is a sci-fi, comedy, or thriller, my focus is to never lose sight of the emotional arc of the characters. This informs most of my editing decisions. 

While Night Raiders is set in a fictional dystopian future, the concept is based on very real events in Canada’s history, such as forced assimilation and the residential school system. How did you use editing to heighten these allegories in the finished film? 

It was extremely important to honour the characters, their language, and their culture, as well as show their strength and their resilience in light of what they have been subjected to. Most important of all was to see them thrive! Both history and current events show us how Indigenous cultures, voices and identities continue to be oppressed and silenced right before our very eyes. Giving space to an Indigenous perspective on the big screen is not only right but necessary in order for all of us to reckon with our past and present, and to envision the work ahead towards reparations. It was an honour to have been invited to carry these voices beside my director Danis Goulet and bring to life her vision. On the editing front, most of the time we used medium and close-up shots to align us with the characters’ experience. We tried to create the feeling of lack of space, constant surveillance, persecution and fear, which engulf the lives of the characters in the story, while also emphasizing the intimacy between mother and daughter. The rhythm of the editing highlights the juxtaposition between urban and natural settings, magnifying the ongoing conflict between State versus Nature. 

Can you tell us more about your creative collaboration with DGC Ontario Director Danis Goulet? 

My role as an editor, more than ever, was to listen. I had to let go of my archetypical understanding of character development in a story and open myself up to Danis’s vision. I became aware of my own assumptions and learned more nuanced and complex ways of being and moving about in the world. Then the challenge and joy became figuring out how to realize this vision as faithfully and compellingly as possible within the constraints of the medium. Working with Danis was an absolute pleasure since day one. She is kind and generous. She is very prepared, and knows what she wants, but is always open to exploring new ideas. I am proud of this collaboration and so grateful for the friendship it created. 

What do you love most about working in Toronto/Ontario? 

Toronto is home. I love that I can ride my bike and be in my edit suite in fifteen minutes, tackling my next scene. I love that we have the best post-houses in the world, filled with the best of people. I love that Toronto is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, because I love imagining the storytelling possibilities this reality holds for the present and future filmmakers who, like me, call Toronto home.

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