Night Raiders Parent Guide
The movie's timeliness gives it an emotional resonance that is deeper than the film itself.
Parent Movie Review
It’s 2044 and North America has been ravaged by war, leaving adults subsisting in desolate cities. And it’s an adult-only world: all children are forcibly separated from their parents and enrolled in boarding schools. Distraught parents are assured that their kids are receiving the best education and will enjoy the benefits of citizenship when they graduate, but the truth is more sinister…
For six years, Niska (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) has been living in the wilderness with her daughter, Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart), determined to preserve their family and indigenous culture. When Waseese is seriously injured, Niska faces an unbearable dilemma, eventually deciding that medical treatment is worth the price they will have to pay. Months later, still distraught, Niska meets an organized resistance group which promises to help her recover Waseese but which wants her help in spiriting children off into the bush.
It’s impossible to watch this movie without recognizing that it mirrors real-world experiences of residential schools and cultural genocide. Months before this movie’s release, Canadians were rocked by the discovery of over one thousand unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools. And Canada was not the only nation which forced indigenous children into a brutal system designed to “kill the Indian in the child”: The United States ran similar “civilizing” institutions, as did Australia and New Zealand. The death toll from these institutions was shockingly high (over one quarter of students in some Canadian schools died), and the cultural and community damage that rippled out from those programs still scars indigenous communities today. This lends a certain timeliness to the film, as well as a deep emotional weight. Niska’s plight is all the more tragic when you’re forced to remember that this fictional tale draws on lived experience.
Night Raiders addresses other issues, like technology and militarism, but the one I found most interesting was the struggle by the conquered to maintain some kind of cultural identity post-defeat. While I’m not necessarily expecting a star-spangled invasion of the Great White North, Canadian border security is an issue you rarely see addressed in film.
While this could be an interesting and educational film, the content concerns make it largely unsuitable for children and make a Restricted rating likely. The primary issue is profanity, with over a dozen f-bombs throughout, as well as several brief scenes of sanitized violence. However, considering the absence of serious substance use or sexual content, I think this would be appropriate and even beneficial for high-school aged audiences. I mean, how often do you have an opportunity to entertain and educate teens about a highly topical and sensitive issue? The movie has a definite “YA novel” vibe but for a teen audience, that’s not a bug; it’s a feature.Directed by Danis Goulet. Starring Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Alex Tarrant, Amanda Plummer. Running time: 97 minutes. Theatrical release October 8, 2021. Updated February 24, 2022
Watch the trailer for Night Raiders
Rating & Content Info
Why is Night Raiders rated Not Rated? Night Raiders is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: Several people are shot and killed, and one is stabbed. A child is injured by an animal trap. A child is forcibly taken from his father, who is restrained when he tries to save him. One child is shown severely beating another. Children are taught to assemble firearms. Several corpses are seen. Burn marks are seen on a child’s neck. There’s mention of biological warfare.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There are 13 sexual expletives, 10 scatological curses, and infrequent uses of mild profanities and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults are seen smoking and drinking socially.
Page last updated February 24, 2022
Night Raiders Parents' Guide
Why did Canadian and American governments force indigenous children to attend residential schools? What were their policy goals? What was the cost to indigenous communities? What are the long lasting effects of this policy? What is cultural genocide? What effects did those schools have on First Nations culture?
The Canadian Encyclopedia: Residential Schools in Canada
The Canadian Encyclopedia: Intergenerational Trauma and Residential Schools
CBC: The horrors of St. Anne’s (Disturbing content)
Scientific American: Canada’s Residential Schools Were a Horror
The Atlantic: Death by Civilization
Wikipedia: American Indian boarding schools
Wikipedia: Canadian Indian residential school system
Loved this movie? Try these books…
The history book Stolen Lives: The Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the Indian Residential Schools is available online at Facing History and Ourselves.
For a wide-ranging history of North America’s indigenous people, Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian is a good place to start.
Phyllis Webstad shares her experiences for young readers in Phyllis’s Orange Shirt and The Orange Shirt Story. Also aimed at children is Fatty Legs: A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. Jenny Kay Dupuis shares her grandmother’s experience in a children’s book entitled I Am Not a Number. The picture book Stolen Words by Melanie Florence and Gabrielle Grimard addresses the issue of lost indigenous languages. A four part graphic novel, 7 Generations tells the story of a Cree family over three hundred years.
Three generations of women share their experiences of residential schools in They Called Me Number One by Bev Sellars. Edmund Metatawabin shares his experience in residential school in Up Ghost River. His father’s terminal illness forces Wab Kinew to confront his relationship with a man so badly scarred by residential schools. His story is told in The Reason You Walk. Richard Wagamese records his experience in residential schools and his subsequent hockey career in Indian Horse.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline is set in a dystopic world where people have lost the ability to dream and are going mad. Indigenous people can still dream and are being hunted by the government so they can be warehoused and have their bone marrow harvested as a treatment for the rest of the population.