A Vancouver-based Indigenous film producer says he was treated as if he was “trying to steal something” after being turned away from a red carpet event at Cannes Film Festival because he’s wearing a pair of traditional moccasins.
Kelvin Redvers, a member of the Dene Peoples from the Northwest Territories, was at the festival with a group of six Indigenous filmmakers in a business program at the University of Capilino, with support from the Screen Office Native and Telefilm images.
On Sunday he was invited on Sunday to the red carpet screening of Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s Les Amandiers, where he intended to wear a formal black suit and bow tie, along with a pair of moccasins hand-made by his sister.
Redvers says the team of advisers he traveled with explained that despite the festival’s extremely strict dress code, there are allowances for dress code.
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Redvers told Global News: “I was 100% hopeful that this was within what they (would) allow.
“As a Dene filmmaker, moccasins are an important part of our culture. They’re ceremonial, they can be quite special, so if you’re going to have a kilo allowed for a Scottish person, the equivalent would be a pair of moccasins for a Dene. “
The redsmith said he went through the first red carpet checkpoint in a pair of regular shoes, not wanting to damage his moccasins. But once he changed them, the staff were quick to respond.
“Almost immediately, someone came and said, ‘No, no no. “He say.
The matter was escalated to more senior festival staff, with a French-speaking member of his production team attempting to explain the situation to no avail.
“In the end there was a security guard there who I guess just broke or bumped or whatever, and he was a big scary human being. (He) turned me down and basically asked me to leave immediately,” he said.
“After weeks of excitement to bring my culture to this red carpet event and being told to ‘get out, this is not welcome here’, was something painful, and it still hurts. sore.”
The redsmiths left the site, and after handling the matter, he changed back to his leather shoes and was allowed into the screening room.
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But he said his team stood up for him and raised the issue with festival organizers. They listened and arranged a meeting the next day with the festival’s general secretary, one of the red carpet heads and representatives of the Office of Indigenous Screens and Telefilm.
“He apologized for the way security had treated me and we had a discussion,” he said. “But even then, they expressed hesitation about understanding this moccasin, why it was formal.”
The Office of Indigenous Displays offers to help educate festival organizers about the importance of culturally polite attire like moccasins or ribbon skirts, he said.
As a result of the meeting, he was also invited to the red carpet screening of the film by Canadian director David Cronenberg. Crime of the future on Monday, this time, with moccasins. At the checkpoint, he was initially met with resistance again, which was opposed by a more senior employee, he said.
“That’s my favorite part of the festival, to be able to go from, ‘No, no, no’ to this, ‘Yes, these are okay for this reason, this is what they stand for, this is what they have for us and with our culture, so you can join. ‘”
In a statement, Kerry Swanson, co-executive director of the Office of Indigenous Screens, said she was pleased festival organizers were ready to listen.
“The Indigenous delegation had an extremely positive experience at Cannes, so it is disappointing to see a delegate turned away at a red carpet event,” she said.
“The Cannes leadership responded quickly and we greatly appreciated the end result, as well as the opportunity to exchange dialogue and cultural understanding. We look forward to continuing to be at the festival.”
Global News requested comment from the Cannes Film Festival.
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Although the red carpet incident has attracted international attention, Redvers said it overshadowed what was otherwise a very successful trip.
He said his six-member team had the opportunity to “sit at the same table” and meet people who pushed and changed from the business side of the movie world.
Redvers is currently working on funding his next feature film, described as an $8 million Indigenous rooftop hostage thriller, and says he can create connections and build momentum for the project.
“Besides the film festival, there is also a huge film market, so a lot of the business happens… in Cannes when it comes to sales agents and distributors and things like that,” he said. .
Back in Vancouver, Redvers said he hopes the red carpet experience can help spark discussions about cultural recognition and potentially lead to change.
He pointed out the 2015 backlash the festival faced after Women turn their backs on wearing flat shoes instead of high heels, a policy later changed.
“The more people that can be educated about what those things are, the easier it will be to make a decision in this moment to say, ‘Oh, okay, let’s go,’” he said.
“And I think that’s our goal – to be able to have those conversations.”
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