La Ronge Cree-Métis filmmaker joins big screen notables at TIFF
- Rose Mansbridge-Goldie | October 16, 2021
Danis Goulet, a nehiyawak-Métis filmmaker from La Ronge, unveiled her new project, Night Raiders, in September at one of the largest movie showcases in the world, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
“Both of my parents, Keith and Linda Goulet, and my kids were with me at the TIFF screening. The film was given a gala presentation so we were in this super fancy theatre—Roy Thompson Hall. It was crazy to see it in such an incredible space,” Goulet said in a recent interview.
Taika Waititi, an Oscar-winning New Zealand screenwriter, actor and director, joined Goulet’s project as executive producer to help the film gain footing.
Goulet’s film has a mainly Indigenous cast.
“They are all stars in my mind, but according to the Hollywood star system they’re not “sellable names,” so when Taika came on board it really helped open doors for us,” she said.
The film stars Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, Blood Quantum), Brooklyn Letexier-Hart (Burden of Truth), Alex Tarrant (Seachange, When We Go to War), Shaun Sipos (Krypton, Dark Matter), and Emmy and Tony Award-winning Amanda Plummer (Hunger Games, Pulp Fiction).
Goulet hinted that the film has some La Ronge references in it and that her hometown, along with several other communities, will get special screenings brought to them when it opens in theatres October 8.
“I can’t wait for everyone to see it, especially the prairies,” she said.
Her dad, Keith, was the main Cree language consultant for Night Raiders and plays a Cree Elder in the film.
“I involve my dad in all of my projects— I don't speak Cree as a first language but he can think in Cree and come at everything from that perspective.”
One of Goulet’s first gigs in the film industry was working on a TV show in Toronto where she was asked to cast a Pocahontas-type role.
“The opening scene of the pilot episode had an ‘Indian princess’ stand silently over a waterfall and sacrifice herself by jumping over it. The casting director called all these incredibly talented Indigenous women into the room and I watched them ‘die’ over and over again—silence, not even given a line. That was their value to the whole show.”
She quit working on the TV show and went to film school to learn how to direct. Since then, Goulet has written and directed three short films—Wapawekka (2010), Barefoot (2012) and Wakening (2013).
“I didn't even know if I could be a director, I just knew it had to happen—I remember thinking, ‘We have to tell our own stories.’”
Night Raiders is Goulet’s first feature-length film. It explores a post-war world in which Indigenous children are put in State Academies where they’re forced to give up their Indigenous identities.
The film is an eerie, futuristic reimagining of residential schools and the “timeless quality” of Indigenous peoples’ survival.
“To acknowledge that we've always been here and that we're still here is so powerful, and to go into the future is saying, ‘we will always be here’,” Goulet said.
“The resistance comes from a place of love for our languages and our communities.”
Despite a busy summer, Goulet spent time at her family’s cabin on Wapawekka Lake as she’s done since she was a kid.
“I have so many memories of being out there and my dad teaching us how to harvest medicines from the lake and pick berries—I even shot my first grouse there.”
Filmmaking is a way to tell these kinds of stories about culture and memory, something Indigenous peoples have been excluded from in the film industry, she said. In Saskatchewan, without a tax credit for film, that silence has been even louder.
“We're coming into a really exciting time, but it's taken years of work and so many filmmakers missed opportunities because the industry wasn't open to them,” she said.
Goulet was thinking of Indigenous audiences when she made Night Raiders.
“I really wanted to make it for us first and I'm really happy if the rest of the world likes it as well—but I can't wait to take it home.”