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Dene filmmaker turned away from Cannes screening for wearing moccasins

Last modified: May 28, 2022 at 1:59pm


A Dene filmmaker who recently travelled to the Cannes Film Festival is turning a negative experience into an opportunity to educate others about cultural representation.

Kelvin Redvers, who grew up in Hay River, said he was turned away from a screening at the festival on the French Riveria for wearing moccasins with his tuxedo, as first reported by the Hollywood Reporter. He’s hoping the incident will start a conversation and lead to wider acceptance of traditional Indigenous wear.

“I’d been looking forward for weeks to be able to wear my moccasins on the red carpets,” Redvers told Cabin Radio, adding they were handmade by his sibling. “Being Dene, I was excited to wear my formal and ceremonial wear on the red carpets. Moccasins are tremendously important for a huge amount of Indigenous groups across North America.”

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While the Cannes festival has a strict dress code, they allow for formal wear from different cultures and nationalities such as Scottish kilts or Indian sarees. But Redvers said when he wore his moccasins, security told him they could not accept “slippers” on the red carpet.

Redvers said while he and others tried to explain that his moccasins were traditional Indigenous footwear, a security guard “demanded forcefully and angrily” that he leave.

A photo provided by Kelvin Redvers at the Cannes Film Festival.

“I just was both shocked and hurt and confused as to why he would just be demanding that I leave, like I was a trespasser,” he said. 

The next day, Redvers said he and representatives from the Indigenous Screen Office and Telefilm Canada met with festival organizers to explain the cultural significance of moccasins and discuss what is allowed on the red carpet. Redvers was then invited to attend the screening of David Cronenberg’s film Crimes of the Future, where he wore his moccasins. 

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“They did apologize for the way I was treated by the security guard, but sadly still didn’t quite understand the importance of moccasins,” Redvers said. 

Festival organizers explained they are more accustomed to full Indigenous regalia, Redvers said, but he feels that “puts Indigenous folks into a box.”

“It may not always be appropriate for an Indigenous person to wear full regalia to be an audience member at a film,” he said.

“I have mixed heritage. My mom is Dene and my dad is not Indigenous and so I came with a suit, bow tie, and moccasins as a way to kind-of blend formal wear from different aspects of myself.” 

A photo provided by Kelvin shows him wearing a tuxedo and moccasins.

The Indigenous Screen Office has offered to work with the Cannes Film Festival to provide more examples of Indigenous attire for future dress policies. 

“They were willing to listen,” Redvers said. “It will been seen what sort of actual formal reaction they have in the coming months or before the next festival.” 

The Cannes Film Festival did not return Cabin Radio’s request for comment. 

Redvers said while the incident on the red carpet was hurtful, he believes the story has a positive outcome.

“I’m excited that there’s a conversation going on around moccasins and what they represent because they’ve always just been a part of my life growing up,” he said, adding another Indigenous filmmaker has said he plans to wear his moccasins on red carpets.

“That’s amazing. That makes me feel really nice.”

Outside of the incident, Redvers said he had a good experience in Cannes. The filmmaker, who is working on feature film Cold Road which was filmed in Hay River and the surrounding area, said he’s excited for the future and increasing diversity in media.

Redvers was part of a delegation of six Indigenous filmmakers who travelled to France for the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival. 

“It was a great honour,” he said, noting not only does the festival offer screenings, but it was an opportunity to meet distributors and producers.

“The vast majority of the trip was fantastic. It was just wonderful to be in the room, so to speak, with all these important folks.” 

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